I have seen message boards in a flurry over the death of Dr. Martin Salia. It is tragic and my heart goes out to him and his loved ones. Some opportunists are utilizing this event as a bearish catalyst to further downplay ZMAPP as a failure. A few things to consider from a medical and investor perspective:
1. The fact that ZMAPP was used should tell investors a few things. That being, that currently physicians believe in ZMAPP over other experimental drugs. For "compassionate use" the treating physician at this time must request the drug. Once the drug trials progress that playing field will obviously change.
2. Where did this dose come from? ZMAPP resources had been exhausted, it may be a part of the 20 doses/month that Kentucky Bioprocessing has the capability to make.
3. Dr. Salia was critically ill as he touched down in Nebraska. He was already on life support and dialysis before either donor plasma or ZMAPP was administered. The nature of viral illness is that it is for the most part self-limited, meaning the body must inevitably fight off the infection. For instance in bacterial infection even with appropriate antibiotics patient can still die. This is because of the extent of organ failure. I always tell my patients and their families when they ask if there loved one will make it when they are in a critical condition, that no one can tell. We give them the weapons to fight the battle against their illness but inevitably it is their own body/immune system that must win the war. Treatment must be provided in the early phase if it is to stand the best chance of success. Once multi-system organ failure occurs the likelihood for survival is exceedingly small. Life support is exactly what it sounds like, support for the body while the real battle against illness takes place. Any Ebola vaccine or treatment must be given in a timely manner.
4. Astute investors would ask themselve what this means for ZMAPP and the global perspective on the response to Dr Salia's care. We did go above and beyond to bring Dr. Salia here for treatment. However, given the need for timely treatment he would have been best served to be treated in the early stage back in Sierra Leone. If ZMAPP can be produced in significant quantity in a month then had the process of manufacturing been allowed to take place sooner Dr Salia may have stood a better chance of survival by getting ZMAPP sooner. The drug trials are about to proceed but those drugs may take longer to produce in mass quantity even if they prove successful. The only real competition as it stands is Chimerix drug. Because it is a drug already in advancement for other viral infection treatments it may be available in greater quantity. Even so, this event may spur the government to come to a quicker decision about BARDAs task order.
5. Some of the government pressure may arise from social perspective of the events. There is already significant racial tension with Jessie Jackson leading the way about the care of Thomas Duncan. I imagine there may potentially be more public outcry over the death of Dr. Salia building more racial tension. In both cases I do not think this is justified. It is extremely hard to catch the first case of a disease in a new continent when medical staff do not know what to expect and as stated Dr. Salia was already very ill. The racial argument should dissipate considering Amber Vinson's treatment as a survivor who received special facility care. However, the BARDA decision does have significant politics involved so public opinion will play a factor.
Disclosure: The author is long IBIO.