The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: March 30, 2012

Fans of bad horror films will know that Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses are definitely something to be avoided. For those not in the know, infection by Ebola begins with flu like symptoms but leads to mortality in 90% of cases. While outbreaks are thankfully rare, the inability to determine the natural maintenance host of the 4 Ebola disease causing viruses, its endemic state in certain geographical regions and the potential threat from its use as a terror weapon means that it is the subject of some substantial research efforts. However, its classification as a biosafety level 4 agent means that studies on the virus can only be carried out in only a small number of facilities worldwide. Hence this week’s research comes from a different centre than we normally cover in the Friday Science Review – the Special Pathogens Program at the National Microbiology Laboratory of the Public Health Agency of Canada, the operator of Canada’s only biological safety level 4 lab (BSL-4).

Their paper in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases evaluates the protective efficacy of 8 different monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed against Ebola’s surface glycoprotein in preventing lethal Ebola infections in mice and guinea pigs. All 8 of the mAbs were able to protect mice against lethal Ebola virus challenge when administered within 1 day. However, these mAbs were only able to achieve partial protection for guinea pigs under the same conditions, indicating that a sole agent therapeutic targeted at the surface glycoprotein of the virus might not be possible. Encouragingly, administering combinations of 3-4 of the antibodies was able to provide significant protective effects even if administration was delayed by up to 3 days. This study demonstrates a potential therapeutic for post-exposure treatment of Ebola virus infections, something that is sorely lacking to date.

Other Publications:

  • Superoxide dismutase is dispensable for normal animal lifespan. PNAS. McGill University
  • Genetically determined P2X7 receptor pore formation regulates variability in chronic pain sensitivity. Nature Medicine. McGill University
  • Deconstruction of the SS18-SSX Fusion Oncoprotein Complex: Insights into Disease Etiology and Therapeutics.Cancer Cell. University of British Columbia

2 responses to “Friday Science Review: March 30, 2012

  1. vze356n7 April 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

    You should publish a follow on article discussing non-MAb approaches and significant progress on treatment for Ebola, especially since one of those non-MAb leaders is Tekmira, a Canadian biotech firm (located in Burnaby, BC), using RNAi (siRNA payloads). Tekmira has a contract with the U.S. Dept of Defense to develop a clinical treatment for the Zaire strain of Ebola, and is currently conducting a Phase I trial. They have already demonstrated a very high percentage efficacy for ZEBOV with the US Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases, in non-human primates (which MAbs apparently are having a difficult time in establishing proof-of-concept). AVII is the other firm, using an anti-sense approach. News releases from the US Army Tranformational Medicial Technology (TMT) announced the progress those two firms are making. Go to link below to read the TMT press releases. Also suggest you contact the Tekmira at:
    Corporate Headquarters

    100 – 8900 Glenlyon Parkway
    Burnaby, British Columbia
    Canada V5J 5J8
    Telephone: 604.419.3200
    Fax: 604.419.3201

    Investor Relations

    Jodi Regts
    Director, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications
    Telephone: 604.419.3200
    Fax: 604.419.3201

    Link to TMT News Release web page:

    Thanks much


  2. vze356n7 April 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Just as a follow up to my prior comment, see the abstract of article in the Lancet (link below) discussing Tekmira’s initial proof of concept/test results of its siRNA therapeutic in non-human primates.


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