Shalom Life | September 13, 2014

Israeli Company Looking to Mass Produce Ebola Drug

Shares of the Biotech company Protalix soared after reports claiming its US-patented drug is as effective as ZMapp

By: Daniel Koren

Published: September 8th, 2014 in Health » World

On Saturday, Israel's Channel 2 News reported that Protalix, a biotech company based out of Northern Israel, is one of the only facilities in the world whose technology would be able to mass produce a drug that can be served as a treatment to Ebola.

The drug, reports Reuters, would be similar to ZMapp, which uses antibodies from tobacco plants and has shown promising results in recent trials.

A day after the news broke, Protalix' shares were up ten percent in Tel Aviv, and rose by as much as 18 percent. In an interview with Reuters, the company's CEO David Aviezer stated that they were discussing a possible collaboration with the manufacturer of ZMapp at this point, but that nothing has been confirmed yet.

Based in San Diego and developed privately by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., ZMapp has been a topic of much discussion this summer following the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, one of the worst outbreaks in history.

Two Americans who had contracted the disease while helping locals in Liberia were able to fully recover by using ZMapp, while their doctors claim they can't be certain if it was the drug that eliminated the disease or not.

A Liberian doctor and Spanish priest, who were both given ZMapp, died after contracting the disease.

Regardless of these conflicting reports, scientists claimed last month that in a test trial, 18 lab monkeys who were infected with Ebola all recovered after being treated with ZMapp.

According to Channel 2 News, Protalix head scientists say the company can genetically engineer tobacco and had offered to produce large quantities of MZapp for Mapp Biopharmaceutical in a short time.

Aviezer stated on Sunday that Protalix' technology produces biological drugs in plant cells. He also stated that the company has received approval from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration to treat Gaucher disease

Where in developing MZapp an entire tobacco plant is used, Protalix only uses plant cells, says Aviezer, but more efficiently:

"In theory, we probably could also produce the antibody used for treating Ebola in our plant cell system," he said. "Based on our technology and their technology we believe this can be done.

"We have to receive the DNA sequence of the antibody, which is a proprietary asset. It does not belong to us. We would insert it into our plant cells and then purify the antibody protein that would be made in these cells."

As reported by the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed over 2,000 and infected over 4,000 since March. If there was ever a time for Protalix' drug to be mass produced, it seems now is most certainly it.

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