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ASU professor part of potential Ebola cure

PHOENIX -- Arizona State University Regents Professor Dr. Charles J. Arntzen has an interest in plant biotechnology that put him on a journey to create what could be the cure for the deadly Ebola virus.

In the early 2000s, Arntzen partnered with Dr. Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical. Together, they wrote a grant proposal, received funding from the U.S. Army and set out to research antibodies and vaccines against Ebola.

ZMapp, which is an experimental biopharmaceutical drug, is comprised of three antibodies that were first discovered at Mapp's headquarters, located in San Diego.

"The three antibodies are produced in tobacco plants," explained Arntzen. "After purification, you end up with a vial containing antibodies, which are virtually the same that you'd find in human blood."

The novel treatment had only been tested on animals -- until two American aid workers infected with the virus were administered the medication.

"We were concerned that we were doing something that might not work, but in the case of these two patients, they had little choice," Arntzen said. "I'd been told they were planning their funerals. If I were in that situation and given the opportunity to take it, I don't think I'd hesitate a moment."

Experts say it could take years of testing before ZMapp is deemed the cure for Ebola. It is not available in mass supply.

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About the Author


Sandra moved from the small border city of Yuma, Arizona to study Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University in the late 90s. Since graduating, she's worked at several local TV stations including Univision, Fox 10 and 3TV.

Working at KTAR, has allowed her the opportunity to cover major national news events, including Presidential visits, the Tucson Tragedy and the Wallow fire.

When Sandra isn't covering breaking news or behind a microphone in the studio, she's probably at home with her best friend Mark and her two dogs, Lily and Lola.

Sandra enjoys cooking and admits to enjoying "really bad" reality T.V. She also enjoys spending quiet time at home with people she loves, playing a little poker and traveling.

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