The “secret serum” being used to treat the two Americans infected with Ebola virus is a humanized, three-monoclonal-antibody experimental cocktail provided by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a small San Diego-based biotech company. Known as ZMapp™, the product is the result of a collaboration between Mapp, LeafBio, Toronto-based Defyrus, the U.S. government, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Up until now ZMapp had only been used to treat monkeys (successfully) and has not yet entered human clinical trials. Due to the deadly nature of Ebola, the decision was made to administer ZMapp to Kent Brantly, M.D., and Nancy Writebol, who are now being treated at Emory University Hospital after being flown back to the U.S. from Liberia where they contracted the disease. Both patients reportedly are responding positively.
ZMapp is composed of components of Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s MB-003 monoclonal and two monoclonals from Defyrus’ ZMAb program. The antibodies are being produced under an existing manufacturing collaboration with Kentucky Bioprocessing. Using a fully automated production system that operates in accordance with GMP procedures, the antibodies are manufactured in a tobacco plant, Nicotiana.
“ZMapp was first identified as a drug candidate in January 2014,” according to Mapp Biopharmaceutical. “As such, very little of the drug is currently available. Any decision to use an experimental drug in a patient would be a decision made by the treating physician under the regulatory guidelines of the FDA. Mapp and its partners are cooperating with appropriate government agencies to increase production as quickly as possible.”