Building on previous vaccine collaborations in anthrax and pandemic flu, Gaithersburg, MD-based Emergent BioSolutions is moving its BARDA dealings into the Zika realm. BARDA, an HHS arm, this week awarded Emergent a contract worth up to $21.9 million to prepare a Zika vaccine for a Phase I trial.
Over the 30-month contract, EBS will adopt technology to produce three cGMP lots of an undisclosed BARDA-provided Zika vaccine candidate for an early human trial. The base value is $17.9 million, with options potentially bringing the value to $21.9 million.
Though it’s the pair’s first collaboration in Zika vaccines, BARDA and Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS) have had a history working on infectious diseases and biodefense programs. In 2012, HHS certified the biotech to assist with task orders as part of an 8-year, $220 million contract. Since then, EBS has supplied pandemic influenza vaccines and anthrax vaccines as part of a $1.3 billion contract.
Last March, the biotech netted a $31 million BARDA contract to test its new-and-improved anthrax vaccine.
But in Zika, the partners will be operating in a fast field that last week saw Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO) move into the first human trials with its candidate. Other players large and small have gotten involved, with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and India’s Bharat Biotech having been touted as leaders at different points in the race.
But the NIH effort may encounter some road bumps as a federal Zika spending bill Tuesday hit a wall at the hands of Senate Democrats, the New York Times reports. Senators were angry about unrelated provisions in the legislation, including one that would limit contraception access and another to soften pesticide restrictions. The $1.1 billion funding measure would provide about $230 million for NIH Zika vaccine work.