Ebola-Stricken Doc Receives Experimental Drug, But Which One?

 

Updated (at bottom) from 10:07 AM ET with news about Dr. Sacra's treatment

The condition of Dr. Rick Sacra, the doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in West Africa, continues to improve following treatment at Nebraska Medical Center. Officials at the hospital won't say which experimental drug or therapy is helping Sacra recover from Ebola, but that's hasn't stopped investors from making guesses and driving volatility in Ebola-related stocks. 

Right now, speculation amongst Twitter traders seeking to profit from Ebola-related stocks points to Tekmira Pharmaceuticals (TKMR) and its RNAi-based Ebola drug known as TKM-Ebola.

.@apwriter Am now 99% certain Dr Sacra is successfully receiving Tekmira TKM-EBOV ebola therapy. 1% just because nothing is certain $TKMR

— egomaniakos (@egomaniakos) September 11, 2014


Search Twitter for "$TKMR" and you'll see a lot of tweets just like the one above. 

Why are Twitter traders so certain Sacra is receiving Tekmira's drug? For starters, the list of experimental therapies available to treat Ebola-stricken patients is rather short, according to this list compiled by the World Health Organization. Perhaps more telling, Tekmira's decision to stay largely silent about its Ebola drug seems to gibe with what officials at the Nebraska Medical Center are saying, or not saying.

"We're not releasing the name of the research drug at this point at the request of the manufacturer. However, we may have more on other methods of treatment used for Dr. Sacra in the near future," Nebraska Medical Center spokesman Taylor Wilson said Wednesday, responding to my email asking if the name of the drug being used to treat Sacra could be disclosed.

With all the media buzz about Ebola, why would any company developing an experimental treatment being used today to treat a patient shy away purposefully from the limelight? Probably because if the Ebola patient happens to die, the company developing that experimental drug would get whacked. Plus, why take the risk of talking up your Ebola drug (which may or may not work) when others will do it for you? 

Not all drug companies are taking the low-key, stay-humble approach to the Ebola crisis. You can bet that if NewLink Genetics (NLNK) or Hemispherx Biopharma (HEB) were engaged in treating actual Ebola patients, there'd be multiple, hyper-promotional press releases issued.

Another Ebola drug player, Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT)   also disclosed to inquiring Twitter traders that it is not involved in the treatment of Sacra, which cross its experimental drug off the list. A Sarepta spokesperson confirmed the same for me this morning.

 

$tkmr. NEWS!!!! I just received an email from $srpt confirming they are NOT providing "research drug" for Dr. Sacra!!!!!!!

— annie post (@apwriter) September 11, 2014

All this speculation is making for some volatile trading in Tekmira.


TKMR Chart

Update: This story from NBC News says Sacra was treated with blood from another Ebola survivor. It makes no mention of treatment with Tekmira's therapy.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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