SIGA gets federal contract to produce smallpox antiviral

Oct 14, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – In a move to allow the United States to stockpile its first specialized treatment for smallpox bioterror attacks and related infections, SIGA Technologies announced yesterday that it will receive a federal contract to deliver 1.7 million courses of a new antiviral medication.

SIGA, a pharmaceutical company based in New York City, said in a press release that the contract from the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS's) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is worth at least $500 million, and as much as $2.8 billion if the government exercises all of its options.

It also said the contract is contingent on SIGA resolving its status with the Small Business Administration (SBA).

When SIGA received its preaward notice, Chimerix, Inc., an unsuccessful bidder for the contract, filed a small-business-size protest against the company. When HHS asked for bids in March 2009, it had designated the contract as a small business set-aside. SIGA said in its press release that it will respond promptly to the SBA regarding Chimerix's complaint.

SIGA's antiviral drug, ST-246, was developed to protect against smallpox and related orthopox viruses. In 2008 it performed well in its first human tests of safety and efficacy. In 2007 the drug was used on an emergency basis to successfully treat a 2-year-old boy who was critically ill with eczema vaccinatum, a form of vaccinia virus infection. The boy was infected through exposure to his father, a military member who had received the smallpox vaccine.

Currently, vaccination within the first 4 days after exposure is the only reliable treatment for smallpox infection, though the antiviral cidofovir has shown some activity against orthopox viruses.

Though smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s, nations are concerned that terrorists may use it as a biological weapon. Over the past few years, federal officials have focuses many countermeasure efforts on developing a second-generation smallpox vaccine and a version that is safer for people who have immune-system impairments.

In September 2008 SIGA received a $55 million contract from the US government to support the development of ST-246, which followed an earlier $16.5 million contract.

See also:

Oct 13 SIGA Technologies press release

May 8, 2008, CIDRAP News story "Smallpox drug does well in first human safety test"

Sep 5, 2008, CIDRAP News story "Firm wins $55 million contract for smallpox drug"

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