Even if the markets are in rapid decline, a few biotechnology companies have had a particularly good day. Siga’s stock has increased by more than 40%, Emergent Biosolutions by over 12%, and Tonix Pharmaceuticals by 15%. Bavarian Nordic, a Danish corporation, increased by 19 percent outside of the United States.
Why is that? They create monkeypox remedies.
A few cases of monkeypox have been reported in Europe and North America, far from where outbreaks generally occur in West and Central Africa. The alarm has gone up swiftly, increasing the shares of makers of the pharmaceuticals that would be needed to treat a monkeypox outbreak, with covid still very much continuing and vivid memories of early 2020.
What are the treatment options for monkeypox?
Monkeypox does not have a specific therapy. Treatments for the condition were initially licensed as a means of defending against a biological attack. The smallpox virus is a member of the orthopoxvirus family, and it has many characteristics with an old human foe: smallpox. Fortunately, compared to smallpox, monkeypox is less deadly—between 1% and 3% of individuals die from it, compared to 30 percent for smallpox.
Because the two viruses are so similar, medicines established for smallpox can also be utilized for monkeypox. While there are no specific therapies for monkeypox, a disease that has killed thousands of people in many African countries since the 1970s, there are numerous treatments for smallpox.
Tpoxx (generic name: tecovirimat), developed by Siga Technologies, and Tembexa (generic name: brincidofovir), which Emergent Biosolutions recently bought from its inventor Chimerix for $325 million, are the most recent FDA-approved medications to treat smallpox. Both are antivirals that can be taken orally or by injection. Bavarian Nordic is developing a smallpox vaccine, and Tonix Pharmaceutical is developing another.
Why do we treat monkeypox using smallpox treatments?
That’s a lot of treatment options for an illness that was declared extinct in 1980. These vaccinations and antivirals, on the other hand, were not created to treat existing conditions. They exist in case smallpox (also known as variola virus) is brought back as a weapon.
“Although naturally occurring smallpox no longer exists, worries about the variola virus’s possible use as a bioweapon has made smallpox medication development a key component of the US medical countermeasures response,” the FDA wrote in its Tembexa approval notice for 2021. Canada and European countries, for example, stockpile the medications as a defensive strategy.
While bioterrorism is a significant threat, it’s strange that European countries need to buy smallpox medications from the United States in order to cure monkeypox, a disease that wealthier countries had ignored since the first recorded case in 1970. The current monkeypox outbreaks, like the expansion of covid, illustrate that viruses know no bounds. “Saying ‘no one is OK if we’re all not OK’ is more than a joke; it’s a truth inherent in the notion of global health,” says Nadia Sam-Agudu, a pediatrics professor at the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology.