Archive for September 29th, 2008

Rivals Win Anthrax Contracts

September 29th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Washington Post

Emergent BioSolutions of Rockville, Maryland has been the government’s only provider of anthrax vaccine ever since it secured a half billion dollar sole source deal several years ago to stockpile 19 million doses of its version, known as BioThrax.

BioThrax has limitations though. It must be refrigerated for example. Inoculated conscripts have reported serious complications, and 6 injections over 18 months are needed to produce a sufficient immune response.

The US government has thus just awarded development contracts to two companies, Emergent and its rival PharmAthene, to create improved vaccines.

Emergent Biosystems secured $29.7 million to develop an improved version of BioThrax that will require fewer injections. It will still require refrigeration, however.

The government’s decision was a coup for PharmAthene. It received $83.9 million to create a vaccine that requires only 1 or 2 injections and can be stored at room temperature.

The split decision heightens anticipation for the announcement later this fall of the big prize, a contract (or contracts) to supply 25 million doses of recombinant (genetically engineered) anthrax vaccine to the US Strategic National Stockpile. 

The agency that awarded the two contracts is the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). It sits within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the HHS web site, BARDA’s mission is “to provide an integrated, systematic approach to the development and purchase of the necessary vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools for public health medical emergencies.”

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Career Networking Sites Thrive

September 29th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Economist

Few companies are benefiting from the financial crisis, but business networking sites such as LinkedIn and Xing are doing just that. These sites have grown rapidly as economic conditions have soured. In the last several weeks, an unprecedented number of LinkedIn members updated their profiles, preparing themselves perhaps for the possibility they may lose their jobs.

LinkedIn and Xing provide platforms allowing business professionals to get their names out there, keep track of peers and industry leaders, establish new contacts and form groups with common interests.

LinkedIn is a privately held, Silicon Valley based company that has 29 million members. It was started in 2002 and is now valued at $1 billion on revenues of approximately $100m. LinkedIn’s revenues derive from members as well as headhunters and companies that pay to troll their databases.

Xing is a German company that has 6 million members. It was founded in 2003 and went public in 2006. It had revenues $24m in the first half of this year. Xing’s revenues derive primarily from subscription fees, because the site emphasizes networking rather than job search.

Their business concept now proven, these two companies now must fend off competition. Facebook has the capacity to play in this space, for example. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal and New York Times have nascent professional networking features on their sites.

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China Shoots for the Moon

September 29th, 2008 | No Comments | Source: Economist, Washington Post

America hasn’t had landed a man on the moon in 36years and it has no immediate plans to return there. Meanwhile, China can now boast it has the moon in its sights.

This after three Chinese astronauts parachuted to Earth yesterday following an error-free mission which included China’s first spacewalk. Crowds gathered before outdoor TV monitors across China to cheer the spectacle.

China’s leaders are riding a wave of nationalism following the Olympics. There is no public opposition to their space program, and they face few of the budgetary constraints that have plagued NASA for decades.

China plans to construct a space station within 5-10 years and land an unmanned probe on the moon shortly after that. It is a matter of time before China announces plans to put a man on the moon.

China’s latest space success created less angst in the US than its last one, in which it blew up a failed weather satellite with an anti-satellite missile some 21 months ago. China’s space program is run by the military, but China insists its program is peaceful.

With many nations’ economies in tatters, those who are still inspired by human space exploration will be gazing up at red flags for the foreseeable future.

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