Tekmira to suspend Ebola drug development, focus on hepatitis B

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., based in Burnaby, B.C., announced on Monday that their TKM-Ebola drug will no longer be produced.

Company, which has long been active in hepatitis B research, rebranding as Arbutus

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., based in Burnaby, B.C., announced on Monday that their TKM-Ebola drug will no longer be produced.

"The development activities related to TKM-Ebola will be suspended and a joint re-evaluation of the development contract with the US Department of Defense is underway," the company said in a press release.

Just last month, Tekmira announced it was suspending the clinical trial of TKM-Ebola with a small number of Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

The company said at the time the trial "was not likely to demonstrate an overall therapeutic benefit."

The full results of that trial have not yet been released.

Tekmira first received $140 million US in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010, not long after positive results in studies targeting the Ebola virus in primates.

The collaboration continued over the years, with the Ebola-Guinea strain of the virus intensifying in West Africa in 2014. Tekmira received fast-track approval for the drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March of that year, sending its shares to its highest level, above $33 US.

Tekmira announced Monday a re-branding of its corporate name to Arbutus Biopharma Corp., focussed on developing a cure for chronic hepatitis B, a pursuit the company has been involved in for years. Tekmira opened at $11.28 per share on Nasdaq on Monday.

The recent outbreak of Ebola, dating back to 2013, has been responsible for over 11,000 deaths in West Africa. While the outbreak has abated in 2015, an UN official said last week about 30 people per week are still getting infected in total Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Ebola produces a violent hemorrhagic fever that leads to internal and external bleeding. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with blood, bodily fluids, and tissues of infected people or animals.

There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for Ebola. Another Ebola treatment, Z-Mapp, was developed by three companies, including Dreyfus Inc. of Toronto. The treatment was based on research done in large part at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.


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