Exploring Ebola efforts

Kymab to lead a consortium to pursue antibodies against Ebola virus

Kelsey Kaustinen
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—As Ebola case numbers continue to be a concern, global efforts to combat the disease continue as well. Kymab, a monoclonal antibody biopharmaceutical company founded on research from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, recently received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to lead a consortium that will develop new treatments to combat Ebola. Other organizations in the consortium will include academic groups from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the University of Westminster and Public Health England’s Porton Down.
 
“I am proud that Kymab has been entrusted with this very important and difficult task which will allow us to contribute to the discovery of a breakthrough treatment for Ebola infections. The world has not been prepared for this major outbreak, and we in the biomedical community need to contribute our efforts and technologies to assist in making medicines to fight Ebola and other infectious disease epidemics,” Dr. Christian Grøndahl, CEO of Kymab, commented in a statement.
 
Under this consortium, Kymab will apply its human antibody discovery platform Kymouse, with the goal of discovering antibodies that act against different strains of the Ebola virus.
 
Kymab’s Kymouse technology can rapidly generate a broad diversity and quality of fully human antibodies, offering high affinity, candidate-quality molecules that require no further lead optimization since the molecules “are already optimized in vivo for affinity and biophysical properties.” The drug candidates produced by the Kymouse platform, Kymab notes on its website, feature “normal immune response, B cell maturation and fertility,” as well as “correct Ig isotypes, class switching and somatic hypermutation.” Kymouse monoclonal antibodies also “have broad epitope coverage with picomolar affinities.” The platform consists of multiple mouse strains, each of which has its own diversity profile.
 
“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented and requires a variety of public health interventions to bring it under control, a crucial part of which are new drugs and treatments,” Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said in a press release. “The crisis has shown that we need to be better prepared for future epidemics, and the Wellcome Trust is delighted to be part of this collaborative effort to develop drugs that might treat both current and emerging strains of the virus, using an approach that may also apply to other emerging infections.”
 
“Kymab has assembled a consortium of leading academics and biotechnology professionals that are well matched to the challenge of quickly discovering and mass-producing antibody-based drugs to treat this dangerous infection. We set ourselves an ambitious goal to discover broadly neutralizing antibodies against the Ebola virus, and through our genetic understanding of how the Ebola virus can quickly drift and mutate, we aim to make a medicine that could potentially treat future outbreaks,” added Prof. Allan Bradley, founder and chief technology officer of Kymab.
 
On Jan. 12, the Wellcome Trust issued another Ebola-related announcement, detailing how a draft road map “for the expedited development, testing, manufacture, delivery and financing of Ebola vaccines” was published by a global group of experts supported by the Wellcome Trust. The panel featured 26 international experts and was convened by the Wellcome Trust and the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The draft road map discussed how the numerous challenges impeding rapid development of Ebola vaccines can be overcome by collaboration between industry, governments and philanthropic organizations. It also noted the potential need for multiple Ebola vaccines with different characteristics, an approach that could enable options such as ring-vaccination to prevent the spread of an outbreak and prophylactic vaccines for high-risk individuals such as healthcare workers.
 
A Jan. 22 update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that the total number of Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has risen to 21,759, with 13,587 laboratory-confirmed cases and 8,668 deaths. The CDC added that “The outbreaks of Ebola virus disease [EVD] in Senegal, Nigeria, Spain, the United States and Mali have ended. A national EVD outbreak is considered to be over when 42 days (double the 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus) has elapsed since the last patient in isolation became laboratory negative for EVD.”

Kelsey Kaustinen

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