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NIH Awards Infectious Disease Therapy Contracts

Anthrax spores (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Anthrax spores (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, awarded contracts totaling $37.5 million to five companies to develop therapies for diseases caused by multiple types of bacteria or viruses. The five-year orders, with a potential total value of $150 million, cover research to extend promising drug candidates in the lab that can lead to drugs the U.S. can stockpile to protect against bioterror attack or public health crisis.

The companies will conduct research on therapeutics that target classes of pathogens, rather than focusing on one specific virus or bacterium at a time. This broad-spectrum approach is designed to improve preparedness for more infectious threats, either naturally occurring or by deliberate attack.

The contract recipients are:

CUBRC Inc. in Buffalo, New York and Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals in Watertown, Massachusetts, which will develop a synthetic tetracycline antibiotic to treat the bacterial disease tularemia, and respiratory infections such as community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. The compound will also be tested against anthrax and plague. Intravenous and oral formulations of the drug will be evaluated in pre-clinical studies for safety and efficacy.

Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Watertown, Massachusetts, which will develop and evaluate a candidate of bicyclolides, new class of small-molecule antibiotics. Enanta’s bicyclolide has demonstrated potential against anthrax, plague and tularemia in cell culture studies, as well as efficacy against anthrax and tularemia in mice.  The compound will be evaluated for effectiveness against multiple bacteria that might be used as agents of bioterror, and several phase 1 clinical trials are planned.

Unither Virology in Silver Spring, Maryland, which will develop and evaluate an investigational antiviral drug as potential treatment for influenza and dengue fever and possible applications for viral hemorrhagic fever, smallpox and hepatitis. The drug, known as UV-4, may also reduce the potential for drug resistance. It is expected to undergo toxicity studies, a preliminary safety study and a phase 2 clinical trial for dengue fever.

XOMA (US) in Berkeley, California, which will develop an intravenous antitoxin to treat human botulism poisoning. XOMA’s monoclonal antibody product will target serotypes C and D of the Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin and would also neutralize related toxins. The development of human monoclonal antibodies would replace existing horse-based antitoxin products that are difficult to make and pose safety concerns for humans. A preliminary clinical trial is planned.

Read more: Three Companies Win NIH Biodefense Research Contracts

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