DOD taps Tekmira for Ebola treatment

The U.S. Department of Defense has recruited a few good nanoparticles from Tekmira Pharmaceuticals to deliver RNAi therapeutics in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

Tekmira, based in Vancouver, BC, is developing an siRNA delivery platform it calls SNALP, for "stable nucleic acid-lipid particles." SNALP are specialized lipid nanoparticles that the company says can fully encapsulate and systemically deliver siRNA, which silences genes that cause disease. Tekmira's technology has caught the attention of the Defense Department's Chemical and Biological Defense Program, which wants to develop the gene-silencing therapeutic to treat Ebola virus infections.

Tekmira is eligible to receive up to $34.7 million over the next three years to develop an Ebola SNALP product candidate through to a filing of an IND and completion of a Phase I human safety clinical trial. If the contract is extended through to FDA approval, Tekmira says, funding for the entire program would total $140 million.

Tekmira CEO Mark Murray, in a statement, called the contract an "important recognition of the potential of our SNALP platform and, more broadly, the promise of RNAi to treat serious infectious diseases such as Ebola. This work builds on our recently published research, where we reported that Ebola SNALP could confer complete protection to non-human primates from a lethal dose of Ebola virus."

- read the Tekmira release