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U.S. Funds Biodefense Antibiotic Development

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department on Friday said it had awarded a contract worth up to $67.2 million over five years for efforts to produce a new antibiotic effective against anthrax, plague and other possible biological weapons threats (see GSN, Nov. 22, 2011).

The New York company CUBRC and the Massachusetts firm Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals would cooperatively pursue studies related to the tetracycline drug TP-434 under the deal with the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Initial findings suggest the medicine could prove useful in countering a wide range of threatening bacteria against which current antibiotics have less effect.

The contract would provide $11.4 million for the initial 12 months. It is intended to finance nonhuman and human trials related to the drug, along with preparations for production, according to a press release.

“Protecting the nation against biological threats requires a wide variety of countermeasures, and we’ve found that an efficient way to develop such countermeasures is to focus on products that have both commercial and biodefense uses,” BARDA Director Robin Robinson said in provided comments.

“This approach was recommended by the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise Review which [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] released in 2010, and supporting the development of TP-434 reflects our ongoing commitment to multipurpose products and the expansion of our antimicrobial portfolio for national preparedness,” Robinson said (U.S. Health and Human Services Department release, Jan. 20).

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