Drugs protect monkeys from Ebola, US study finds

* Second antisense approach protected monkeys

* Company free to proceed with clinical trials

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. government researchers
working to find ways to treat the highly deadly Ebola virus
said on Sunday a new approach from AVI BioPharma Inc (AVII.O: )
saved monkeys after they were infected.

Two experimental treatments protected more than 60 percent
of monkeys infected with Ebola and all the monkeys infected
with a related virus called Marburg, the team at the U.S. Army
Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in
Fort Detrick, Maryland reported.

AVI BioPharma already has a contract worth up to $291
million from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop Ebola
treatments. [ID:nN15170828]

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, Sina Bavari and
colleagues said the drugs tested are antisense
phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, or PMOs, called
AVI-6002 and AVI-6003.

“Taken together, these studies provide a major advancement
in therapeutic development efforts for treatment of filovirus
hemorrhagic fever,” Bavari’s team wrote.

The company has submitted investigational new drug
applications for AVI-6002 and AVI-6003 to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration and may now test the drugs in people.

Ebola causes a very serious hemorrhagic fever that has
caused dozens of frightening and deadly outbreaks across Africa
and threaten endangered gorilla populations as well as people.

It is considered a possible bioterrorism weapon.

There is no treatment and no vaccine against Ebola, which
passes via close personal contact and, depending on the strain,
kills up to 90 percent of victims.

But several studies in the past few months have shown that
experimental “antisense” therapies can stop the virus.

In May a U.S. government team reported that small
interfering RNAs or siRNAs could hold the virus at bay for a
week until the immune system could take over. [ID:nN27138277]

SiRNAs are little stretches of genetic material that can
block the action of a specific gene, in this case preventing
Ebola from replicating.

PMOs are a little different but also interfere with genes.

An hour after infection with Ebola, 5 of 8 monkeys
survived, while the remaining animal was untreated, Bavari’s
team found.

AVI-6003 worked best, protecting 90 percent or more of
monkeys against Ebola, they said, and 100 percent against
Marburg.

Canada’s Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp (TKM.TO: ) has a
separate contract to develop antisense treatments against
Ebola. [ID:nN15170828]
(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Drugs protect monkeys from Ebola, US study finds