Fujifilm says its flu drug is an Ebola solution in waiting

Ebolavirus under an electron microscope--Courtesy of CDC

Fujifilm is confident its recently approved flu treatment can combat the spread of ebolavirus in West Africa, preparing for a surge in manufacturing as it waits on clinical trial results.

The drug, Avigan, is an oral treatment approved in Japan earlier this year and designed to inhibit viral gene replication. As Reuters reports, Fujifilm's therapy has helped four patients infected with Ebola make a full recovery, spurring researchers in France and Guinea launch clinical trials on the virus this month. The company expects results by the end of the year, setting the stage for global Ebola approvals some time in 2015.

Last month, Fujifilm said it had enough Avigan tablets to support 20,000 courses and enough API to churn out another 300,000. Assuming positive trials results and a boom in global demand, the company is scaling up its manufacturing to bolster its stockpile in time for those expected approvals.

Meanwhile, drugmakers and governments around the globe are scrambling to develop chemicals, biologics and vaccines to stem the spread of a virus that has killed more than 5,000 since December.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical has perhaps the most promising candidate in ZMapp, a combination of three monoclonal antibodies, while Chimerix ($CMRX) and Sarepta ($SRPT) are developing antiviral approaches. On the vaccine front, industry titans Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) have committed hundreds of millions to fast-track developmental efforts, while smaller outfits like NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) and Profectus BioSciences have drawn on government funding to bankroll their projects.

Fujifilm picked up Avigan (favipiravir) in its $1.5 billion acquisition of Toyama Chemical in 2008, one of the Japanese conglomerate's many life sciences deals designed to wean off of revenue from its flagging photography business.

- read the Reuters story

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