Samples of antibodies from new Ebola survivors are heading to a lab in La Jolla, California, for analysis and the lab director is asking for the public’s help to fund the process.
Scripps Research Institute Professor Dr. Erica Ollman Saphire and her team are on the front lines to help find a cure for Ebola, which is believed to have killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa.
On Monday, the World Health Organization called the Ebola outbreak "the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times."
The Sorrento Valley lab Mapp Bio used the images created at Scripps to come up with the experimental drug used to treat Ebola survivors Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol. It has also been used on an English nurse, a Spanish priest and two Liberian doctors who contracted Ebola. The priest and one of the doctors died despite receiving the treatment.
“Right now we are at war. It's a crisis there are thousands of cases there are not enough beds, it has come here, and it will come again,” Saphire said.
Saphire is anticipating the shipment of hundreds of antibodies from people all over the world who have survived the Ebola virus infection this year.
“We need to know what those antibodies are. Why do these people survive and what we can learn from that?" Saphire said.
Saphire has launched a crowdfunding page with the goal of boosting staff and upgrading equipment because she expects the amount of material she will soon receive to outpace the lab's current capabilities. Her goal is to raise $100,000 for a Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography machine.
“We need a new FPLC it's most important workhorse in the lab. What we do here is look at the shapes of the proteins, how they're folded. How the antibodies get the virus," she explained.
The CDC describes ZMapp as a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus.
There is no current supply of the drug. Experts warn it still must undergo testing in humans for safety and effectiveness.