Arizona State University researchers help pioneer Ebola virus treatment

TEMPE, AZ - Some ASU researchers are playing a big part in fighting the Ebola virus.    

Two Americans infected with the Ebola virus are now being treated with a drug called “ZMAPP.”

The companies that created the experimental treatment based it off of ASU’s research with tobacco plants.

Professors Qiang Chen and Charles Arntzen are leading the way in their lab at the Biodesign Institute.

“We use plants, the cells, as a factory to produce those therapeutics, antibodies,” said assistant professor Qiang Chen, PhD.

Their experiments paved the way for the creation of this Ebola vaccine.

“We actually have the capability, like in this case, to make a lot of protein, a lot of drugs very quickly in response to the outbreak of some unpredictable disease,” Chen said.

It’s the first time the ZMAPP drug has been used on humans.

In fact, the vaccine hasn’t even made it past animal trials.

But in these circumstances scientists are giving it a try, hoping it will save lives.

And scientists at ASU are watching-- waiting to see if this could be a breakthrough.

“It's really exciting, and this is really tremendous news,” Chen said.

The scientists we spoke with were quick to point out that the Ebola virus was never actually on the ASU campus or in their labs. They sent their sample to labs across the country for more testing.

ASU researchers are also working on vaccines for other viruses like West Nile.

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