HPA awarded £4 million contract by US government to develop next generation anthrax vaccine

HPA awarded £4 million contract by US government to develop next generation anthrax vaccine

30 October 2012

The US Government, through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded the Health Protection Agency (HPA) a contract worth £4 million ($6.5m) to develop a next generation anthrax vaccine at HPA's facilities in Porton, Wiltshire, UK. The programme could be worth up to £14m ($24m) if all project milestones are met.

If successful, the next generation vaccine will combine the HPA's expertise with anthrax vaccine antigens and US Company NanoBio Corporation's adjuvant technology enabling a vaccine to be delivered by fewer doses than currently required and by an intra-nasal spray device instead of an injection.

Dr Roger Hinton, principal investigator and head of development and production at HPA Porton, said: "We are delighted to achieve this award which is recognition of our world leading status in the field of anthrax vaccine research and development - we already manufacture anthrax vaccine for the UK and our expertise in this area is essential for the success of this programme."

Anthrax is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Bacillus anthracis. The disease occurs most often in wild and domestic animals in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe - humans are rarely infected.

The vaccine against anthrax is only recommended for those at highest risk, for example, people working with animal hides (especially imported hides), in abattoirs or laboratory staff who may be handling the organism.

Unfortunately, however, attempts have been made to weaponise anthrax which could lead to inhalation of the organism. A deliberate release of anthrax spores occurred in 2001 in the USA. Letters containing the spores were sent through the postal system, and resulted in 22 human cases. Although potential acts of biological terrorism are considered a low probability, governments across the world have invested significant resources and expertise to ensure they well prepared to respond to a deliberate release of anthrax.

This funding will enable HPA to compete with other organisations developing similar vaccines. Dr Howard Tranter, HPA business development manager, said: "The HPA has a long track record of success in the development of vaccines and therapeutics and this multi-million dollar award is further evidence of the important role we can play in helping our partners worldwide in the key development of future biological products."

Notes to editors:

    The anthrax bacterium can exist in a form known as a spore which allows survival in the environment, for example, in the soil. There are several forms of anthrax infection: skin, inhalation, injection and intestinal. With inhalation anthrax, symptoms usually develop within 48 hours of exposure, but in other forms of anthrax symptoms may not appear for up to a week. Anthrax infections can be treated effectively with antibiotics if diagnosed early. More information.
    The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013, subject to the usual approvals procedures for establishing new bodies, the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk.
    For more information please contact the national HPA press office on 0208 327 7901 or email [email protected] Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.