LA JOLLA - The Scripps Research Institute held a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon on efforts in San Diego to respond to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
Among the panelists was Kevin Whaley, CEO of Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a Sorrento Valley firm that produced an experimental treatment for Ebola called ZMapp.
"We've been working on it since about 2006 and we have been getting very good primate data – non-human primate data – over the past year or so," said Whaley. "During that period, that's when we felt like we were hopefully on to something."
It was administered to two American health workers who were sickened by the virus and subsequently recovered. A British man was also given the medication, as was a Liberian physician who died of the disease.
Other panelists were TSRI professor Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, who heads an international effort to find antibodies to fight the Ebola virus, and Mark O'Donnell, chief operating officer of Project Concern International.
O'Donnell's organization is involved in humanitarian assistance efforts in Liberia to prevent the spread of Ebola. PCI also trains healthcare workers and delivers emergency medical supplies.
Together, they are spearheading an international effort to find antibodies to fight the Ebola virus. For the first time Wednesday, they publicly talked about their role.
"We've been keeping our heads down," said Whaley. "We think the focus should be on the brave people in Liberia that have been struggling with this."