Amgen Inc. said it would work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups to come up with an alternative production method for ZMapp, the promising experimental drug to treat Ebola whose supply ran out in August.
ZMapp, from Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. in San Diego, is currently made using tobacco plants, which can be induced to grow the three antibodies in the drug. The Gates Foundation is exploring other options amid the worst Ebola outbreak on record, and last week gave Mapp a $150,000 grant to see whether large-scale production is possible with more traditional methods.
Toward the effort, Thousand Oaks-based Amgen will detail 12 to 14 staff members to see whether the drug can be made in Chinese hamster ovary cells, said Kristen Davis, an Amgen spokeswoman. While the technique offers a slower route than plant production, the infrastructure for manufacturing drugs in these cells is well established, which means production can be scaled up rapidly.