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The Small Business That May Have Found a Cure for Ebola

Has this nine-person biotech startup cracked a major medical mystery?
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Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a nine-person company based in San Diego, has produced a drug that's helping two Americans who have been diagnosed with Ebola, the New York Times reports.

The drug, dubbed ZMapp, is made up of humanized monoclonal antibodies that originate in mice and are then spliced into tobacco leaves. (Yes, you read that correctly.) It had never been tested on humans before, though it showed "effectiveness" in monkeys. The privately-held company is now in talks with the FDA to discuss how to move forward with ZMapp. At the moment, there are very few ZMapp doses available.

Mapp was started in 2003 by Dr. Larry Zeitlin and Kevin J. Whaley, and received all of its financial support from government grants and contracts--including at least two SBIR grants. (Should ZMapp succeed with such a high-profile and badly-needed project, it would go far towards combating criticism that SBIR often funds the wrong companies.) Now the company finds itself in a spotlight tiny startups rarely experience, with the World Health Organization preparing to hold a meeting of medical ethicists to discuss using ZMapp as an experimental treatment in West Africa. The most recent figures from WHO report that the Ebola death toll has risen to 932.  

Mapp co-founder Dr. Zeitlin told the New York Times that his company's experience has been "absolutely overwhelming."

ZMapp was only just identified as a potential drug in January of this year.

IMAGE: Veer
Last updated: Aug 7, 2014

ZOE HENRY

Zoë Henry is an editorial assistant at Inc. She also serves as managing editor for the independent literature press, Atticus Review.




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