This “miracle drug” has already been credited for treating lung cancer and Parkinson’s. Soon, it could be finding a cure for the Zika virus.
The pharmaceutical company developing the drug, Merck & Co., has developed a method for early detection of the mosquito-borne virus. It will submit the experimental drug to the Food and Drug Administration next year.
“We’re hopeful that the treatment will be promising and potentially provide a reason for people to seek out these medicines because right now they’re available to treat much less,” Merck’s Chief Scientific Officer Joe Ehrhardt told Reuters.
Merck won FDA approval for a chemical remedy to treat a rare prostate cancer in March. The drug, known as defensin fumarate, has a price tag of $300,000.
Tracking victims and watching for mosquitoes will be important, Ehrhardt said. It’s also looking for specific genetic traits that could distinguish an infected human from a healthy one.
In March, Merck came under fire for deciding to dump its research on a promising immunotherapy treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Known as aducanumab, the drug failed a phase 3 trial.
Although officials have not publicly stated their reasons for dropping the research, the decision has been attributed to a shift in strategy.