La Jolla lab on the front line in the war on Ebola

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LA JOLLA, Calif. – A La Jolla researcher is leading the charge in the war against Ebola at the Scripps Research Institute.

Dr. Erica Ollman Saphire is while a trail that may set the standard for collaborative research efforts in the future.

“We have gotten all the Ebola scientists in the entire world on the same page for a single definitive study. Everybody is contributing their tools and resources,” said Saphire.

Her team was part of the group in Carlsbad that created the ZMAPP drug, considered the most promising experimental treatment to date. The last two vials of the serum were used to treat Ebola survivors Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol.

“We saw that antibodies could work against the Ebola virus,” said Saphire.

The lab is using survivor antibodies to find a treatment as well as a vaccine, but that normally requires years of man-hours and money – both of which they don’t have.

Saphire has taken her mission online, asking for the public’s help to raise funds to fast track the research.

At least 4,000 people, mostly in West Africa, have died from Ebola. A Liberian man died in a Dallas hospital last week, marking the only death to happen on U.S. soil.

Scripps Health Systems chief medical officer Dr. Jim LaBelle said San Diego has taken extraordinary measures to insure the hospital system is equipped to deal with an Ebola patient.

“In light of the news this weekend, we’ve gone back and looked at our training and decided to retrain staff on personal protective equipment as well as training staff to be safety monitors. All these are upgraded beyond what the CDC recommends,” LaBelle said.

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