New Medical Device That is Proving Effective Against the Worlds Toughest Viruses, Including: Ebola, Hep C, HIV, West Nile and Smallpox Wins FDA Designation "Breakthrough Device"

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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- USA News Group – A new study published in the journal Molecular Therapy reports that researchers found a drug used in the treatment of HIV that may also suppress Zika virus infection. Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day.

Research and developments with multidisciplinary approaches are proving vital to the treatment and defense against viral and infection diseases as they become more aggressive and deadly. Companies preparing to offer new treatments to deal with the onslaught may become some of valuable over the next decade. Leaders in this space are anticipating strong revenue from collaborations including NGM Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: NGM), Emergent BioSolutions Inc. (NYSE: EBS), and SIGA Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SIGA)

One relative unknown in the space is Aethlon Medical, Inc., a medical technology company, focusing on addressing unmet needs in health and biodefense worldwide. Aethlon Medical Inc. (NASDAQ: AEMD) is the developer of the patented Aethlon Hemopurifier, a clinical-stage immunotherapeutic device that removes exosomes and life-threatening viruses from the human circulatory system. This device can be used in wide application to combat highly infectious diseases like the Ebola virus. Aethlon is also developing TauSome, an exosomal biomarker candidate to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living individuals.

Targeting Two Viruses at the Same Time

The drug called rilpivirine was shown in the new study that uses cell and animal models to stop Zika virus by targeting enzymes that both HIV and Zika virus depend on for their very replication. These enzymes also occur in a larger group of viruses that are considered closely related to Zika. These are the viruses that are also known to cause dengue, yellow fever, West Nile fever, and hepatitis C.

Kamel Khalili, PhD, Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience, Director of the Center for Neurovirology, and Director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at LKSOM explains, "HIV and Zika virus are distinct types of RNA viruses. By discovering that rilpivirine blocks Zika virus replication by binding to an RNA polymerase enzyme common to a family of RNA viruses, we've opened the way to potentially being able to treat multiple RNA virus infections using the same strategy."

Zika virus requires an enzyme known as non-structural protein 5 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (NS5 RdRp) in order to replicate inside cells. One of the researchers in the new study showed that rilpivirine suppresses Zika virus infection in cells through the blocking of viral replication, effectively rendering Zika useless. The researchers employed structural biology and computational studies in order to show that rilpivirine prevents viral replication by binding specifically to the NS5 domain.

Taking on Multiple Viruses as a Defense

The approach in the study is one of several areas where biotechnology companies are innovating across viruses. This may mean combing technologies or finding novel treatments such as the approach of Aethlon Medical Inc. Unveiled in 2014, Aethlon Medical is developing its Hemopurifier®– of the most intriguing, patent-protected therapeutic devices in the world.

This unique blood purification device is a first-in-class therapeutic technology receiving two FDA Breakthrough designations, through multiple therapeutic targets: viral disease and cancer.

To date, Hemopurifier® therapy has been administered to individuals infected with Ebola virus, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In the case of Ebola, it was through a "remarkable response" to the Hemopurifier® therapy to a comatose patient (a Ugandan physician) with multiple organ failure at the time that led to the accolades given by Time Magazine.

Beyond human treatment experiences, pre-clinical Hemopurifier® studies have validated the broad-spectrum capture of numerous viral threats, including: Chikungunya, Dengue and West Nile virus, Vaccinia and Monkey pox, models for human Smallpox infection. Since receiving its FDA "Breakthrough Device" designation, Hemopurifier® therapy has also earned the spotlight of its role of fighting cancer in cases of chemotherapy resistance, promotion of metastasis, and immune suppression.

A Way Forward for Dealing with Deadly Viruses

Researchers clearly see the approaches being lauded as a way forward with viruses and infectious diseases. And there is good reason to be on the lookout for real breakthrough in treatment. Epidemics involving flavivirus infections, particularly HIV, Zika, dengue, and hepatitis C, frequently overlap geographically and temporally. "The potential applications of this work are huge," the researchers suggested.

"We now have a clear path forward," Dr. Khalili said. "We have a starting point from which we can find ways to make these drugs even more potent and more effective against flaviviruses."

Word is the researchers will step up their studies to develop ways to improve the effectiveness of NNRTIs in blocking infection with Zika virus and other flaviviruses. That can only benefit the developers of therapies and drugs that will guard from wider infections. Companies in the biotech space that could benefit from breakthroughs and the treatment of the virus-based diseases include:

NGM Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: NGM) is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company advancing a robust pipeline of drug candidates to address a spectrum of large, unmet medical needs. They are focused on harnessing powerful, untapped biology underlying major diseases to develop transformative therapeutics for patients. 

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. (NYSE: EBS) is a life sciences company that focuses on the provision of specialty products for civilian and military populations that address accidental, intentional, and naturally occurring public health threats (PHTs). Its products address PHTs, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives; emerging infectious diseases; travelers' diseases; and opioids. Emergent BioSolutions recently reported it had landed a $2 billion government contract to provide smallpox vaccines. Analysts note that our government remains vigilant about protecting its people and military from biologic threats and continues to stockpile items like vaccines to ensure they're prepared.

SIGA Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SIGA) is a commercial-stage pharmaceutical company that focuses on the health security markets in the United States. Its lead product is TPOXX, an orally administered antiviral drug for the treatment of human smallpox disease caused by variola virus. The company was founded in 1995 and is headquartered in New York, New York. SIGA recently announced that the Canadian Department of National Defense (CDND) has issued an advanced contract award notice (ACAN), indicating that it intends to award a contract to fund regulatory filing with Health Canada for approval of oral TPOXX®.

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- 15 Jan 2020
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