Rapid research in a deadly epidemic pays off - The Verge
Oct 17, 2020 1 min, 44 secs

This week’s US Food and Drug Administration approval of an Ebola drug is a big milestone in drug development — one that’s closely tied to our current efforts to fight COVID-19.

The drug is an antibody treatment called Inmazeb developed by Regeneron, and dramatically helped increase survival rates in Ebola patients during an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In addition to having a drug capable of treating Ebola, the trials also provided a blueprint for responding to future ‘all-hands-on-deck’ viral outbreaks.

Now, some of the same techniques that were piloted during the Ebola epidemic are being used to design clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments today.

The trial for the Ebola drugs focused on four possible treatments.

During the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa between 2013 and 2016, clinical trials moved too slowly, and researchers weren’t able to get enough data to draw conclusions about potential treatments.

The scientists knew that Ebola would come back, and wanted to find a way to quickly test treatments during future outbreaks of the disease.

The World Health Organization and many other international partners took the lessons from the West African outbreak and came up with a framework that could be used to ethically conduct clinical trials during future outbreaks.

The success of the 2018 Ebola trial, and others like it, are part of what helped COVID-19 research get going so quickly after the virus started spreading.

Back in February, researchers had already started testing treatments, modeling their efforts off the Ebola trials in 2018.

But even at remarkably fast speeds, it still took two years for the Ebola treatment to go from clinical trials to full FDA approval.

It probably won’t take quite as long to see emergency approval of other COVID-19 treatments, but full approval may still be a distant speck on the horizon — even with all hands on deck.

NIH paused Eli Lilly Covid-19 antibody trial because of safety concerns.

Johnson & Johnson pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial due to unexplained illness.

Maryn McKenna takes us through the potentially messy rollout of a future COVID-19 vaccine


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