Officials report that passengers from Wuhan, China are now being screened at J.F.K. New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles airports for infection with a mysterious respiratory virus that has killed two people and sickened at least 45 overseas. This comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of the efforts to overcome new and deadly viruses, research and developments with multidisciplinary approaches are proving vital. Leading edge companies are working to offer new treatments that can handle the influx. These may emerge as some of the most valuable companies in this era. Leaders that may benefit from collaborations and new approaches include Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Oncolytics Biotech Inc. and Emergent BioSolutions Inc.
A little know company in this sector, Aethlon Medical, Inc., is a medical technology company, bringing solutions to address unmet needs in health and biodefense worldwide. Aethlon Medical Inc. (AEMD) developed 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 and potentially other emerging viruses. Aethlon is also developing TauSome, an exosomal biomarker candidate to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living individuals.
Virus Appears to Come from One Source
The news suggests that people who have contracted the infection are believed to have derived it through exposure to animals at a specific market that sells seafood and meat in Wuhan. However, officials cannot say whether the virus spreads from person to person or how it’s being contracted.
There are also a few reported cases that have not been linked to animals, and so researchers are indicating that some human-to-human transmission could be possible. There are several deadly viruses known as SARS and MERS, which have resulted in mass outbreaks in recent years. Those viruses also emerged from China.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated, “This is a serious situation. We know it is crucial to be proactive and prepared.”
The CDC position is that there will probably be cases in the United States which emerge at some point, but they have ranked the current risk to the general public as “low”.
A Good Offense Is the Best Defense
Several areas where biotechnology companies are innovating includes across deadly and emerging viruses. In some cases, this will involve combing technologies or discovering new treatments. That’s the case with the approach taken by 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.
Hemopurifier therapy has already been administered to individuals infected with Ebola virus, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV). With 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.
Still a Serious Concern
The C.D.C. has been quick to answer the call and is developing a diagnostic test that will be sent to hospitals and state health departments so that they can immediately determine whether people may be infected with Chinese Coronavirus.
According to reports, roughly 100 experts from the C.D.C. are being deployed at the three airports in question. The first screening began at New York’s Kennedy International Airport on Friday night according to officials. So far, J.F.K. is the only airport in New York with screening in place. The C.D.C. has also added screenings at San Francisco International and Los Angeles International to avert early exposure in the US.
Estimates are that roughly 60,000 to 65,000 people a year travel to the United States from the area of Wuhan. That means that about 5,000 passengers are likely to be checked for signs of the new infection over the several few weeks. New York and San Francisco are the only airports to receive direct flights from Wuhan; passengers arriving in Los Angeles arrive on connecting flights.
In the screening process, travelers will be asked to fill out questionnaires and screeners will use thermal scanners that can be pointed at the forehead or temple to indicate fever. At present, the protocol suggests that people with signs of illness will be examined, along with family members or others traveling with them.
This proactive approach can only help in warding off the further spread of the virus. There are several companies moving on the development of therapies and drugs that will guard from new and broad infections. The innovative companies in the biotech space that could benefit from breakthroughs and the treatment of the virus-based diseases include:
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company develops, licenses, manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells biopharmaceutical products worldwide. It offers drugs in oncology, immunoscience, cardiovascular, and fibrotic diseases. The company recently disclosed it has received European Commission Approval for Revlimid (lenalidomide) in Combination with Rituximab for the Treatment of Adult Patients with Previously Treated Follicular Lymphoma. Revlimid plus rituximab is the first chemotherapy-free combination regimen approved in Europe for patients with follicular lymphoma who have relapsed or did not respond to previous treatment.
Oncolytics Biotech Inc. is a biotech company developing an immuno-oncology virus (called pelareorep) being studied for potential combination with Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Roche’s Tecentriq, Pfizer’s & Merck KGaA’s Bavencio, as well as Keytruda from Merck & Co., Inc. Oncolytics has reported that it has four ongoing studies with Pfizer, Merck KGaA, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche which involve checkpoint inhibitors, targeting metastatic breast cancer, early stage breast cancer, multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer.
Emergent BioSolutions Inc. 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.
photo: Global Panorama