HHS funds nine regional treatment centers for Ebola, other diseases
To prepare the nation better for cases of Ebola or other serious diseases, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has earmarked about $20 million to develop nine regional treatment centers across the country, HHS said today in a news release.
The funds will help the treatment centers ramp up their capabilities, and ASPR will provide an additional $9 million over 4 years to sustain continual readiness. The centers will involve joint efforts with health departments and partner hospitals in Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Texas, and Washington.
"This approach recognizes that being ready to treat severe, highly infectious diseases, including Ebola, is vital to our nation's health security," said Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. "This added regional capability increases our domestic preparedness posture to protect the public's health."
Each center will receive about $3.25 million over the 5-year project period. The funding is part of $339.5 million in emergency funding that Congress approved to enhance state and local preparedness following US Ebola cases last year.
Jun 12 HHS news release
HHS announces support for development of Ebola rapid test
HHS's ASPR also announced today that it is funding the development of an Ebola virus diagnostic test for use in a healthcare setting or in the field that is intended to provide results within 20 minutes.
The development of OraQuick, a simple, low-cost, lateral-flow test, will take place under a $1.8 million contract with OraSure Technologies Inc. of Bethlehem, Pa., HHS said in a press release. Lateral-flow tests detect the presence of a virus with a drop of the patient’s blood or saliva on a test strip. The contract could be extended for up to 39 months and $10.4 million.
"Fast and inexpensive point-of-care diagnostics will improve our ability to control Ebola virus disease outbreaks," said Robin Robinson, PhD, director of ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which will oversee the development of the device. "Faster diagnosis of Ebola virus infections allows for more immediate treatment and an earlier response to protect public health worldwide."
OraSure will also evaluate whether the test can be used in post-mortem analyses of oral fluids, which could help in detecting the presence of Ebola virus after death and decrease the problem of disease spread at funerals and in preparing dead bodies, which helped fuel the epidemic in West Africa.
OraQuick is the first point-of-care Ebola testing device to receive BARDA support, HHS said in the release.
Jun 12 HHS press release
China-produced Ebola drug questioned over patent, safety issues
China late last year rapidly produced multiple doses of a knockoff of the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp in response to the outbreak in West Africa, but some US officials have expressed concern about possible patent infringement and over safety The New York Times reported yesterday.
The drug, MIL77, is produced by Beijing Mabworks. ZMapp is produced by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego and resulted from a collaboration between US and Canadian scientists.
"People think international collaboration could easily happen between the U.S. and Canada," said Beijing Mabworks chief executive Feng Li. "But these days, China could play a role" by making emergency response drugs "better and faster in some cases."
Last summer in response to the Ebola epidemic Chinese officials spurred production of MIL77 plus an Ebola vaccine, which is now in human safety trials. Within 3 months, Beijing Mabworks used information from ZMapp's patent that it obtained in a licensing agreement to produce antibodies to the Ebola virus. And a month later it had produced 100 doses of the drug, the story said.
But some US officials have voiced concern, as the US government holds a patent on one of the antibodies in ZMapp.
BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD, said the Chinese scientists might have infringed on patents if they tried to sell MIL77 outside China without an agreement with Mapp Biopharmaceutical.
He added, "They have not done all the testing that we would normally do for safety before these products would go into humans." ZMapp is currently in clinical trials.
Jun 11 New York Times story