Before the current Ebola outbreak, the virus had only appeared in Africa in fits and starts since its discovery in 1976, receding back into the jungle almost as quickly as it arrived. This relative rarity and the swiftness with which the disease kills its victims has, up until now, made Ebola an unattractive--not to mention daunting--prospect for drug developers. As a result, no approved drugs or vaccines against Ebola exist.
As the current situation in West Africa worsens, more people have died from Ebola since the current outbreak began in December 2013 than in all previous outbreaks combined. The public health crisis has prompted the World Health Organization to call on international government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry to work together to speed up the development of promising therapies for experimental use for those most at risk of contracting the disease, which causes severe hemorrhagic fever.
Now, a handful of players are racing to get a treatment or vaccine to patients as quickly as possible, even though these drugs remain largely untested in humans. We've compiled a list of organizations that are in the global spotlight right now with their investigational Ebola programs. -- Emily Mullin (email | Twitter)Bavarian Nordic/Johnson & Johnson Name: MVA-BN filo/AdVac (vaccine) Phase: Preclinical (Phase I trials to begin in 2015)
The scoop: Prime-boost regimen that combines Bavarian Nordic's MVA-BN platform (cancer vaccine consisting of an attenuated version of the modified vaccinia ankara virus encoding a filovirus antigen) with J&J's AdVac vector system BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Name: BCX4430 Phase: Preclinical
The scoop: RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitor Chimerix Name: Brincidofovir Phase: II/III (exploratory)
The scoop: Oral nucleotide analog GlaxoSmithKline/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Name: cAd3-ZEBOV (vaccine) Phase: I
The scoop: Uses an attenuated strain of chimpanzee cold virus, called chimp adenovirus type 3 (ChAd3), as a vector to deliver benign genetic material derived from the Ebola Zaire virus strain Inovio Pharmaceuticals Name: SynCon (vaccine) Phase: Preclinical
The scoop: Polyvalent DNA vaccine containing three consensus plasmids to broadly target variant virus strains within three distinct families of Ebola and Marburg viruses Mapp Biopharmaceutical Name: ZMapp Phase: Preclinical
The scoop: Mixture of three "humanized" monoclonal antibodies manufactured in plants, specifically Nicotiana NewLink Genetics/Public Health Agency of Canada Name: rVSV-ZEBOV (vaccine) Phase: I
The scoop: Based on attenuated strains of vesicular stomatitis virus, a common animal virus, modified to express an ebolavirus protein that is nonpathologic in primates and mice Profectus BioSciences Name: VesiculoVax (vaccine) Phase: Preclinical
The scoop: Recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) expressing surface glycoproteins from ebolavirus Sarepta Therapeutics Name: AVI-7537 Phase: I
The scoop: Binds to viral RNA and inhibits the synthesis of the nucleocapsid protein, which supports the replication of the viral genetic material in an infected cell Tekmira Name: TKM-Ebola (Ebola SNALP) Phase: I
The scoop: Contains three small interfering RNA molecules packaged into the company's proprietary lipid nanoparticle technology