A U.S. agency said it could spend some $90 million over the next five years on a new treatment against two potentially feasible bioterrorism agents.
The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday said a Medicines Company-owned firm will initially receive $19.8 million for work on Carbavance, its developmental countermeasure for glanders and melioidosis diseases.
Both bacteria are considered to be possibly suited toward use as biological weapons. Up to nine of 10 untreated infections involving either pathogen can result in death, according to an agency press release. Health and Human Services said the agents can develop resistance to antibiotics; with drugs now available, the odds of dying still stand at roughly two in five.
The contract award marked a new investment in “broad-spectrum antimicrobials” by the federal agency’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Such treatments are designed to be of use in responding to a potential biological strike, as well as for handling other health threats.
“Antibiotic resistance adversely impacts our nation’s ability to respond effectively to a bioterrorism attack and to everyday public health threats,” BARDA Director Robin Robinson said in a statement. “By partnering with industry to develop novel antimicrobial drugs against biothreats that also treat drug-resistant bacteria, we can address health security and public health needs efficiently.”
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.
Meanwhile, the firm Hawaii Biotech said it would receive $7.4 million over half a decade to prepare a possible countermeasure for anthrax toxin. The funding would come from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to a company statement.