NIAID awards first Project Bioshield grants

Editor's note: This story was revised shortly after publication to reflect corrections issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on May 10. The corrections pertain to the total monetary amount of the grants and to the project descriptions for XOMA (US) LLC and DVC Dynport LLC.

May 10, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Federal health officials yesterday announced 12 grants and contracts worth $27 million to support development of drugs and vaccines for botulism, anthrax, and other diseases that terrorists might try to spread.

The grants are the first made by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) under Project Bioshield, which Congress enacted last year to promote research on medical defenses against biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear weapons.

"These product development awards, focused on the most serious potential agents of bioterror, will help to rapidly translate laboratory findings into new therapies," said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci in a news release.

The awards include 10 grants and two contracts. Four of the projects are related to botulism, three to anthrax, two to smallpox, one to Ebola virus, one to plague and tularemia, and one to a broad range of potential bioterror pathogens, the NIAID said. The grants and contracts range from 12 to 18 months in duration.

Seven of the award recipients are biotechnology companies; the rest are universities and other medical research institutions. The NIAID didn't list the specific amounts of the grants.

The NIAID also announced the appointment of Michael G. Kurilla, MD, PhD, to serve as associate director for biodefense product development and director of the Office of Biodefense Research Activities in the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Kurilla's main role will be to coordinate advanced development of medical countermeasures against biological weapons, the announcement said. He was appointed under Bioshield authorities that enable NIAID to "streamline" the hiring of scientists for work under the program.

The 10 Project Bioshield grant recipients, with the principal investigators and project goals, are as follows:

  • Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif.; Kim Janda, PhD; drugs to reverse the paralysis caused by botulinum toxin
  • Apath LLC, St. Louis; Paul Olivo, MD, PhD; new drugs for Ebola virus
  • Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System; Karl Hostetler, MD; a new antiviral drug for smallpox
  • Arizona State University; Bertram Jacobs, PhD; ways to optimize the protective effect of smallpox vaccine when given after exposure to smallpox
  • Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals LLC, Cambridge, Mass.; Losee Ling, PhD; new drugs to combat Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax agent
  • Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, Calif.; Donald Reason, PhD; development of antibodies for use in postexposure anthrax treatment
  • Nanotherapeutics Inc., Alachua, Fla.; James Talton, PhD; single-dose inhalers to deliver two antibiotics for immediate postexposure protection against pneumonic plague and tularemia
  • University of Chicago, Wei-Jen Tang, PhD; a drug to block the action of anthrax edema toxin, which causes human cells to swell
  • MaxThera Inc., Reading, Mass.; Ania Knap, PhD; new antibacterial agents for a broad range of potential bioterror pathogens
  • Veritas Inc., Rockville, Md.; George Oyler, MD, PHD; tests to screen tens of thousands of drugs to find those that inhibit the activity of botulinum toxin

The two companies receiving contracts are as follows:

  • XOMA (US) LLC, Berkeley, Calif.; Marc Better, PhD; development of antibodies to protect against botulinum toxin type A
  • DVC Dynport LLC, Frederick, Md.; Ian Henderson, PhD; production of a candidate vaccine against botulinum toxin type E

See also:

NIAID news release

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