DALLAS – What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
The blood of Ebola victim Amber Vinson may end up making the world a lot stronger in future fights against the Ebola virus.
Last January, Vinson, who contracted Ebola after being exposed to it as nurse while treating first U.S. Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan last year, donated a blood sample to XBiotech, an Austin-based biotechnology firm.
"Maybe something good can come out of it," she told News 8 at the time.
After fighting — and winning — her battle against Ebola, her blood contained antibodies to the disease. XBiotech's goal was to isolate and clone those antibodies, using them as the core of an anti-Ebola drug.
The firm has succeeded.
"Our technology offered us the ability to develop a curative therapy to a deadly disease that was ravaging nations and even threatened us here at home," said John Simard of XBiotech. "It offered the potential to develop a therapy with unparalleled speed."
XBiotech has a unique approach to curing disease. It uses real biological material to make new drugs by replicating the antibodies developed by survivors. These are true human antibodies, rather than chemically-manufactured ones.
Once the antibody material is cloned, the company grows the antibodies using a biological process.
"We're going ahead with this project on the basis of making the [resulting] drug available to everyone, one way or another," Simard said.
Just as Vinson donated her blood, the company pledges to donate a portion of royalties generated from the drug to victims who can't afford treatment. Depending on where the drug is used, there may be different rules in approving it for use, Simard said.
Typically, true human antibodies don't require the lengthy trial periods of other materials because of their biological origin, Simard told News 8 in January.
"I want to do want I can to help," Amber Vinson told News 8. "The nurse part of me. It's a changing world, and this is a step I can take to help the next person out."
That step might just prove to provide a cure for a deadly plague.