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Politics

The Greek Doctor Who is Fighting the Ebola Virus

August 25, 2019
Matina Demelis

Constituting one more Greek success story in the field of medicine, Christos Kyratsous, vice president and head of Regeneron viral research, infectious diseases, and viral vector technologies, he leads the company’s research in pursuit of better treatments for Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

The endeavor began in 2014 during an outbreak in Africa.

“At that time, we thought about what we could do about the virus. It was August. By Christmas we had already found the three antibodies we needed. We used them in animal experiments and found that they work pretty well. By the summer the epidemic was in recession. In 2018 there was a new outbreak in the Republic of the Congo, and we were ready and very quickly able to work with the World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors without Borders, and other groups who were able to carry out the study,” he said, adding that the research team developed a successful treatment.

Kyratsous explained that “the survival rates after the Ebola infection are very low, around 30%. Clinical trials were performed on people who had already been infected with the virus and we showed that with REGN-EB3 [his company’s antibody mixture] the survival rate was approximately 70%.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo was the scene of the second largest Ebola epidemic in history, with more than 1900 dead people last year.

Asked how easy it is to find treatments for such epidemics, he told The National Herald, “technology today is so well developed. Once we have an idea for developing an antibody, if this idea is right, then soon we will find the antibody.”

Regeneron’s co-founder, president, and scientific director George Yancopoulos, who is also Greek-American has signed contracts with the U.S. government to undertake research on ten other serious diseases.

Kyratsous explained that “the idea is that when a new epidemic begins, we begin to look for the right antibodies. First on our list of diseases is influenza, the flu virus. We also look at tropical diseases that occasionally flare up in Asia and Africa. We can develop the antibodies and keep them in the freezer, ready to use when needed,” he added.

The 38 year old Greek scientist was born in Kozani and graduated from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He then earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University and attended NYU for two years, and in 2011, he started working for Regeneron.

Along with Regeneron’s REGN-EB3, one more drug that is in use for Ebola comes from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

He answered a question about why both were chosen by noting that “sometimes two drugs in use are better than one. They have chosen the most suitable for the particular virus, so when one ends up [best, there also a] second alternative. You never want to have only one medicine.”

The success of a Greek scientist has once more made Greece proud. It is no coincidence that “Business Insider” magazine has ranked Christos Kyratsous among the 30 young leaders under 40 who are changing the future of healthcare worldwide.

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