Protalix shares soar… then dive after Ebola drug comments

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Protalix shares soar… then dive after Ebola drug comments

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Protalix shares rocketed 18% then reversed in one weekend after the Israeli protein manufacturer clarified it is not in talks to produce Ebola drug ZMapp.

Protalix’s head scientist told Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday that the company is capable of quickly producing large quantities of the experimental Ebola drug for owner Mapp.

But CEO David Aviezer told Reuters the next day that while a collaboration with Mapp is theoretically possible, they are not in talks.

"In theory, we probably could also produce the antibody used for treating Ebola in our plant cell system,​" he said. "Based on our technology and their technology we believe this can be done.​"

For a collaboration, "we have to receive the DNA sequence of the antibody, which is a proprietary asset. It does not belong to us.​"

Protalix’s shares closed a modest 0.3% higher.


ZMapp, an experimental biologic made of three monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), is owned by Mapp Biopharmaceutical and manufactured by Kentucky Bioprocessing, using antibodies from drugmaker Defyrus.

Stocks have run out of the drug candidate, which ZMApp donated to Ebola patients struck by this year’s outbreak in West Africa.

Kentucky Bioprocessing’s plant-based platform manufactured the ZMapp mAbs in tobacco variety Nicotiana benthamiana.  

Protalix’s platofrm, ProCellEx, similarly uses expresses recombinant proteins by genetically enginering carrot and tobacco cells instead of traditional mammalian or yeast-based technologies.

The company claims its plant-based approach allows “potential penetration of certain patent-protected markets, thus expanding the product opportunities based on ProCellEx to include the rapidly growing biosimilar and biobetter markets.​”

Protalix did not respond on Tuesday to our questions about its ZMapp comments.

The firm announced in late August its biologic for Gaucher’s disease – Elelyso, or taliglucerase-alfa – has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children.

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