Ebola antibody treatment, produced in plants, protects monkeys from lethal disease

A new Ebola virus study resulting from a widespread scientific collaboration has shown promising preliminary results, preventing disease in infected nonhuman primates using monoclonal antibodies.

In this week's online edition of the (PNAS), the research team describes a proof-of-concept for using a "cocktail" of , or mAbs, to prevent in rhesus macaques. When administered one hour after infection, all animals survived. Two-thirds of the animals were protected even when the treatment, known as MB-003, was administered 48 hours after infection.

, which causes hemorrhagic fever with human case as high as 90 percent, has been responsible for numerous deaths in central Africa over the past several months. In addition to being a global health concern, the virus also is considered a potential agent. Currently there are no available vaccines or treatments approved for use in humans.

The work is the culmination of more than a decade of effort between government and industry partners. According to lead investigator Gene Olinger, Ph.D., a virologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), this consortium of investigators has taken very distinct technologies and combined them to develop a cutting-edge medical countermeasure against a lethal viral disease.

"It is rare that an antiviral compound prevents Ebola with limited to no morbidity in treated animals at any point of treatment following infection by this ," said Olinger. "Until recently, attempts to utilize antibodies to provide protection against Ebola virus have been met with failure. The level of protection against disease that we saw with MB-003 was impressive."

In addition, the production method used in this study offers the potential to make an economical and effective medical countermeasure, according to the authors. Initially developed as a monoclonal antibody cocktail in the mouse model, MB-003 was successfully humanized and then produced in the tobacco plant-based production system.

"We were pleased to see how well the humanized mAbs of MB-003 performed," said Larry Zeitlin, Ph.D., president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical and senior author on the study. "We also were pleasantly surprised by the superiority of the plant-derived mAbs compared to the same mAbs produced in traditional mammalian cell culture."

Further improvement in antibody efficacy was developed at Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP). Using a fully automated production system that operates in accordance with good manufacturing practices (GMP), antibody is produced in a tobacco plant system. This new development process significantly decreases the amount of time required for production, increases the quantity of antibody produced, and slashes the cost of manufacturing, according to Barry Bratcher, chief operating officer of KBP and co-author on the PNAS study.

"Our GMP facility can generate a new antibody lot in two weeks to rapidly address new threats and new outbreaks," said Bratcher.

Olinger said efforts are underway to advance MB-003 to clinical safety testing as his team at USAMRIID continues to determine the true therapeutic capability of the cocktail.

Related Stories

Research team identifies receptor for Ebola virus

May 02, 2011

A team of researchers has identified a cellular protein that acts as a receptor for Ebola virus and Marburg virus. Furthermore, the team showed that an antibody, which binds to the receptor protein, is able ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PinkElephant
not rated yet Oct 15, 2012
efforts are underway to advance MB-003 to clinical safety testing as his team at USAMRIID continues to determine the true therapeutic capability of the cocktail
Right. I can just imagine it now:

Sir, we need a few dozen "volunteers" to infect with Ebola so we can test this new treatment...