In a case where reality is stranger than fiction, it has come to light that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are granting an exclusive license to Exxell BIO, Inc. in Minnesota to produce a vaccine to combat Ebola using a modified rabies virus (document released March 31, 2014, by the Federal Register of the United States Government.*) You can read the actual document at https://www.federalregister.gov
If this sounds vaguely familiar, let me refresh your memory. It is actually a modified Ebola virus that sets off the entire apocalyptic chain reaction in the movie 28 Days Later, resulting in the “rage virus,” that sees those infected go completely “rabies” berserk and start killing and eating people.
From the actual Federal Register report:
The inventors [Exxell BIO] have developed a new platform based on live or chemically inactivated (killed) rabies virus (RABV) virions containing [Ebola] EBOV glycoprotein (GP) in their envelope. In preclinical trials, immunization with such recombinant RABV virions provided excellent protection in mice against lethal challenge with the mouse adapted EBOV and RABV. More specifically, the inventors have developed a trivalent filovirus [Ebola] vaccine based on killed rabies virus virions for use in humans to confer protection from all medically relevant filoviruses [Ebola] and RABV.
Exxell has shown that a genetically combined rabies-Ebola virus serum protects lab mice against lethal doses of both of these diseases. They have also indicated that they have developed a vaccine for use in humans.
From the report:
No vaccine candidates against Ebola virus (EBOV) … [is] nearing licensure, and the need to develop a safe and efficacious vaccine against filoviruses [Ebola] continues. Whereas several preclinical and clinical vaccine candidates against EBOV … exist, their further development is a major challenge based on safety concerns, pre-existing vector immunity, issues such as manufacturing, dosage, and marketability, and funding for development (emphasis added).
Essentially, the exclusive license needs to be granted so that Exxel can move forward with development. As the deadline for written “evidence and argument” against the proposal has passed (April 30, 2014), it can be assumed that the license has been granted (although this has not be confirmed by ZRS).
As a believer in science and a general skeptic of conspiracy theories, even I find this a little chilling. I believe the world is a better place because of science and modern medicine, so I read this news with guarded optimism. I honestly don’t believe there are nefarious agents at work here, and medical doctors are serious scientists. What does concern me, though, is widespread panic and the inevitable rushing-to-market of an untested vaccine, which may occur should Ebola break free from its shaky cage in Africa.
We’re already seeing this “rushing-to-market” scenario right now. The administering of the experimental drug ZMapp (from biotech firm Mapp) to two American aid workers who recently fell sick with Ebola in Liberia, is an example of paranoia/hysteria circumventing standard operating procedures. Testing of new drugs usually takes years before it even sees human trials, and then years still until it is available to the public. ZMapp has only been identified as a possible treatment since January of this year and has never been tested on humans.
Ebola is not new. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes Ebola as “hemorragic fever (Ebola HF) … a severe, often-fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) that has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheets describes the symptoms:
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. It can be transmitted through direct contact with the infected and their bodily fluids.
CAN SCIENCE SAVE US?
Much pressure has been put on medical labs and pharmas to create a vaccine for Ebola Virus Disease, as there is currently no fully tested anti-viral medication which reverses the disease. When someone becomes infected, the body’s own immune system must fight off the disease, which is why it is especially lethal in young children, older people, and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions.
There are a number of factors standing in the way of a faster developed vaccine. And much of it hinges on profit. When it comes right down to it, the big pharmacological companies are organizations whose ultimate purpose is to make money. If companies are not profitable, they will cease to perform any and all acts of altruism, perceived or otherwise. It’s civilization’s Achilles heel.
The high costs of research and development are in large part associated with many of the necessary rules and regulations that come with producing medicine. And much of that cost comes in the form of bureaucracy. Many a treatment has died a slow laboring death as it waits to pass through the myriad of fire walls erected to stop bad medicine from reaching the market (and which incidentally covers the pharmas’ asses as well). It’s a tenuous balancing act. Add to that the sometimes irresponsible fear of science that can be seen today, and you have a perfect storm.
That being said, the flip side is also true. Safe guards are put in place to protect the public. The aforementioned balancing act between profit and safety (with bureaucracy as the tight rope) has eroded trust of the very government that implements that protection. Progress can be paralysed in the process. It’s also popular to be complacent these days, because so many people don’t know what to believe.
Well believe this. If I have to choose who to trust (and let’s be honest, we are not a civilization without healthy trust), my money is on the smart people. The educated people. And I’m talking about the scientists and thinkers who have NOT been lobotomised by greed or partisan agendas. The only way to pick those people out of the landslide of media is to educate ourselves! And that’s with real science, and not with crackpot conspiracy theories from those kooks that seem to have taken over Youtube.
But that brings us full circle to the topic at hand.
We live in a global community, so the control of something like “Rage” (in fiction), or Ebola/rabies (in real life), fall under the responsibility of everyone in every country. We can build walls around our countries, like boarding up the windows of our houses to keep the zombie horde outside, but inevitably, as in every zombie movie, they’ll eventually get in. Time to get our ducks in a row.