​Shares of Ebola drug maker surge after FDA lifts hold

The Canadian biotech firm Tekmira (TKMR) received a boost on Thursday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would modify an earlier halt to testing on its Ebola treatment and allow infected patients to receive the medication.

The decision caused Tekmira's shares to surge in trading on Friday, jumping as much as 25 percent in early trading. The jump came after the shares had already gained 42 percent in the previous week.

Tekmira's TKM-Ebola isn't the only treatment in development, but it represents one hope in the battle against the quickly spreading disease, which the World Health Organization has called an international public health emergency. The FDA had put TKM-Ebola's trial on hold earlier this year as it sought to ensure that higher doses are safe.

"We are pleased that the FDA has considered the risk-reward of TKM-Ebola for infected patients," Dr. Mark Murray, chief executive and president of Tekmira, said in a statement. "We have been closely watching the Ebola virus outbreak and its consequences, and we are willing to assist with any responsible use of TKM-Ebola. The foresight shown by the FDA removes one potential roadblock to doing so."

The FDA had hinted that it might ease up on some restrictions, with Reuters reporting on Saturday that the agency was ready to work with biotech firms to help infected patients.

The treatment has been developed in conjunction with a $140 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. In an earlier test, 100 percent of primates infected with a lethal dose of the virus were effectively treated with the medication.

There are other treatments in the works, including an antibody cocktail in development from Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, which is also working with San Diego's Mapp Pharmaceutical, Toronto-based Defyrus Inc. and the U.S. Army.

The medication from Mapp Pharmaceutical is called ZMapp, and was the experimental treatment given to two American aid workers who are infected with Ebola and have since returned to the U.S. for treatment, according to The New York Times.

  • Aimee Picchi

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