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Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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HHS Awards Contract to Develop Antibiotic for Bioterror Diseases

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department on Tuesday announced it had awarded a contract worth as much as $89 million to a Swiss pharmaceutical company for advanced research on an antibiotic that could be used to treat two highly dangerous diseases -- glanders and melioidosis.

Glanders is a respiratory illness spread by bacteria that can either be breathed in or picked up by physical contact with contaminated animals. Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore's disease, is transmitted via inhalation or physical contact. The disease is often confused with tuberculosis and some forms of pneumonia.

Both pathogens are considered candidates for use by terrorists in a biological attack. At present there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved medication for use against them.

The HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority contract with Basilea Pharmaceutica International would authorize $16.8 million in the program's initial phase to further work on the broad-spectrum drug BAL30072. The remaining $72.2 million would become available if the contract is lengthened to its full six years.

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