Protein Sciences wins $150M contract for gene-based vax program

Protein Sciences' gene-based approach to vaccine development has drawn considerable support from the federal government.

The government issued a $35 million contract to the vaccine company to help advance an entirely new approach to vaccine development that holds the promise of being far faster than the R&D methods currently in use. And that will give the government, and the world, a better shot at a rapid-fire response to future pandemics.

The contract is designed to expand up to $150 million over five years, provided testing goes well. The company extracts a gene from the target virus, inserts it into an insect virus, which then multiplies quickly inside an insect cell. That product is then purified and made into a human virus.

Protein Sciences recently set out to make a new vaccine for swine flu, saying it could produce 100,000 doses a week with its method. That's one of a number of initiatives currently underway to fight the rapid spread of H1N1 around the world.

The contract, though, swiftly became a lightning rod for the company's creditors, who had filed a petition a day earlier aimed at forcing Protein Sciences into bankruptcy. Protein Sciences and Emergent Biosolutions have been engaged in a bitter squabble ever since a buyout agreement between the two companies fell apart. But a spokesman for the HHS said that the government had audited Protein Sciences and determined that it was financially capable to meet its end of the deal.

- read the report from Reuters