PharmAthene to develop bio-defense program

Aug. 17, 2011 at 12:24 PM
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ANNAPOLIS, Md., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $5.7 million contract for a nerve agent medical countermeasure program.

PharmAthene Inc., a Maryland a bio-defense company, said the contract is for 18 months.

Work will focus on rBChE, a recombinant form of a naturally occurring protein -- human butyrylcholinesterase, or BChE, which is found in minute quantities in blood. It functions as a natural bio-scavenger, like a sponge, to absorb toxins such as organophosphorous poisons and certain pesticides before they can cause irreversible neurological damage.

PharmAthene said pre-clinical studies in animals suggest rBChE has the potential to provide significant protection against chemical nerve agent poisoning when administered prophylactically and also may increase survival when administered therapeutically after exposure.

Funding under the new contract will be used to evaluate a novel mammalian cell-based manufacturing system for rBChE. If successful, this platform could streamline the development approach for rBChE and increase the production yield, manufacturing flexibility and cost-effectiveness of this program.

"We have considerable experience in the production and evaluation of recombinant BChE," said Thomas Fuerst, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at PharmAthene.

"This contract builds upon the body of knowledge we have established over the years with a specific focus on the expression of rBChE using a novel mammalian cell line that has been used for the advanced-stage bio-production of other recombinant proteins with considerable FDA oversight and review."

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