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Tekmira Ebola drug trials

Trials of two experimental drugs have just started among Ebola patients in Liberia and Guinea, and
preparations for a third in Sierra Leone will start next week. However, as the epidemic fluctuates, scientists in some areas are in the unexpected position of potentially not having enough sick people to test the drug on.

The trial in Sierra Leone will involve the first-ever RNA-based drug to be tested against an infection in humans. The drug, made by Canadian firm Tekmira, contains a “short interfering” RNA (siRNA), designed to stop a particular gene from working. Tekmira has developed stable nanoparticles of fats to help administer these siRNAs, and they have been tested against cancer and a protein disorder called amyloidosis in humans. But with US biodefence funding, the company also developed one that blocks a key gene in the Ebola virus, stopping it from replicating.

It has passed small-scale safety tests in people, and intravenous doses starting half an hour after infection saved monkeys that had been infected with lethal levels of Ebola. Tekmira announced on 22 December that it would carry out human trials in West Africa with siRNA specifically matched to the epidemic strain.
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