OTR Interviews

Life-saving Ebola drug runs out - so now what?

The supply of a life-saving experimental Ebola drug has run out, so what can be done to treat Ebola victims and contain the virus in the U.S.?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The experimental drug hoped to be the wonder drug, Zmapp. Zmapp credited with the saving the lives of the first two Americans who contracted Ebola. This is the problem, and it is a huge one, there is no more of it. So now what?

Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire, with the Scripps Research Institute, is part of the team that developed it. She goes ON THE RECORD.

Nice to see you again.

ERICA OLLMANN SAPHIRE, PROFESSOR, SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Nice to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: You are the expert. How fast you can create more? And what's in the way?

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: It can't be made overnight. It has to be yen to. This is the thing. These are research products that are earlier in research days. We have never seen an Ebola outbreak on this scale before. Other diseases were higher priority last year. So the teams that make the antibodies vaccines are working as fast as they can to makes a much as they can and get to the people that need it.

The people infected right now, the best course of action is to contain and control. To identify the cases and get them the proper medical treatment that they need. Now, this is the major problem at this point. There's 750 new cases in Sierra Leone and 350 beds. Those beds are already full. There need to be more medical teams and more beds. The other things that are need are more diagnostics. A lot of these viruses look the same. Ebola starts with a fever and a headache. Every one of us has had a fever and headache before.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, here's --

(CROSSTALK)

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: There is another virus called Lasa that is endemic in Western Africa. Thousands of cases every year. Endemic in the same places. A lot of these places people could be infected with Lasa. What are needed are rapid diagnostic that can distinguish one virus from the other. From something mundane like flu or malaria to something that needs the highest level of isolation.

(CROSSTALK)

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: There is a company called Coregenics that has one that works in 15 minutes and I have worked with it myself.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know you're much more cautious. I call it the wonder drug, which probably makes you a little crazy that I say that because we are so desperate to have a drug that does the trick. I know seven people have taken it so far two have died out of seven. Pretty good odds. I also know that in experimental drugs, one of the biggest problems often is government regulation. They get in the way. Are there any regulations that are getting in the way now in terms of you getting this to market faster?

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: Well, my expertise is I'm the molecular biologist that figures out how it works. I don't do production and I didn't discover it. But my understanding is the government regulatory agencies are working as fast as they can to move these things as fast as they can. I haven't seen this to be a big problem. But, you know, the doses have to be made. This is a research product and the human doses just simply weren't available, and Mapp Bio (ph) gave away everything they had. More is in production and they are working as hard as they can on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. If you started today, for one dose, how soon could you make that?

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: I don't know. This really isn't my expertise. I think the focus needs to be letting the people who do that manufacturing do it as fast as they can. We need to focus on getting the teams and the medical care and the beds to the patients, to developing faster diagnostics so we can tell somebody that has flu from somebody who has Ebola.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Thank you very much for joining us.

And you understand that I just have sort of a sense of desperation. I understand --

(CROSSTALK)

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: We all do.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know you do, too. You know a lot more about it than I do.

(LAUGHTER)

So, anyway, Professor, thanks for joining us.

OLLMANN SAPHIRE: Thank you for having me.