Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a leading developer of RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics, today reported that it is collaborating with an international consortium to provide an RNAi based investigational therapeutic for expedited clinical studies in West Africa.
Led by Dr. Peter Horby of the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health at the University of Oxford and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), the consortium includes representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control, Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors without Borders (MSF), ISARIC, and Fondation Mérieux, among others.
The Wellcome Trust has announced it has awarded £3.2 million to the consortium to fund this initiative. The award will include funds for the manufacture of investigational therapeutics as well as the establishment of an operational clinical trials platform in two or more Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) treatment centers in West Africa. RNAi has been prioritized as an investigational therapeutic and may be selected for clinical trials at these centers.
The objective of the clinical trials is to assess the efficacy and safety of promising therapeutics and vaccines, reliably and safely, in patients with EVD by adopting strict protocols that comply with international standards. It is hoped this initiative will permit the adoption of safe and effective interventions rapidly.
The genetic sequence of the Ebola virus variant responsible for the ongoing outbreak in West Africa is now available. Under this program, Tekmira will produce an RNAi based product specifically targeting the viral variant responsible for this outbreak. The ability to rapidly and accurately match the evolving genetic sequences of emerging infectious agents is one of the powerful features of RNAi therapeutics.
"We commend the Wellcome Trust for their leadership in providing the necessary funds to launch and expedite this ground breaking initiative. We are gratified that RNAi has been prioritized as a potential investigational therapeutic to assist in the ongoing public health and humanitarian crisis in Africa," said Dr. Murray, Tekmira's President and CEO.
"We are an active collaborator in this consortium and through our ongoing dialogue with the WHO, NGOs and governments in various countries; we have been discussing the creation of appropriate clinical and regulatory frameworks for the potential use of investigational therapeutics in Africa. This initiative goes a long way towards achieving this aim. Many complex decisions remain to fully implement this unique clinical trial platform. At this time, there can be no assurances that our product will be selected by the consortium for clinical trials in Africa," said Dr. Murray.