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.”