BioWatch: HGS shipping anthrax treatment in $150M deal
Pioneer Rockville biotech makes its first product sales
Human Genome Sciences has begun delivering 20,000 doses of its anthrax treatment to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile under a deal worth at least $150 million.
The Rockville biotech's human monoclonal antibody drug, ABthrax, targets the deadly toxins released within the human body by Bacillus anthracis, rather than attack the bacteria themselves, as antibiotics do. That means it can be more effective in an inhalation anthrax attack, the company says, because people may not be aware of an attack until after the toxins are released. By then, killing the bacteria won't help much.
"We believe ABthrax offers a significant step forward in the treatment of inhalation anthrax and could play an important role in strengthening America's arsenal against bioterrorism," said H. Thomas Watkins, president and CEO, in a statement. "From a business perspective, this announcement is strategically important for HGS, because it marks our company's first product sales … and we are hopeful that fulfillment of this initial order will result in a long-term relationship involving additional deliveries of ABthrax to the stockpile."
HGS is also touting ABthrax versus anthrax vaccines, as a single dose of it attacks the toxins.
Under its 2006 deal with the Department of Health and Human Services, HGS expects to receive $165 million, with $150 million in the first half of 2009, with the balance to come upon Food and Drug Administration licensing of ABthrax.
In other Maryland bioscience news:
Novavax of Rockville reported that all the equipment in its new 10,000-square-foot Good Manufacturing Practice pilot plant to produce pandemic and seasonal flu vaccines is installed and ready for operations. The company uses virus-like particle technology in the plant, which has an expected capacity of 2 million to 3 million doses of monovalent pandemic flu vaccine per week. The total project cost was $5 million. The plant must still pass regulatory muster before it begins production.
Novavax also signed a research license agreement with Vivalis of Nantes, France. Novavax will use the French company's proprietary EB66 cell line to produce vaccines against several new potential viruses. The cell line, derived from duck embryonic stem cells, has several advantages, including long-term genetic stability and immortality, according to Novavax information.
Gaithersburg biotech GenVec has cut 22 positions, bringing its work force to 101, to lower expenses "during this period of unfavorable economic conditions," the company said in a statement. Lower labor costs, plus revenues from funded collaborations, is expected to provide 18 to 24 months of operating capital.
"We regret having to reduce GenVec's work force, but in response to the current economic climate we must reduce spending," CFO Douglas Swirsky said. "We are also focusing on reducing overhead expenses and discretionary spending."
GenVec ended the year with about $17.4 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments.
MedImmune of Gaithersburg will make a milestone payment of $1 million to its partner, Medarex Inc. of Princeton, N.J., for the allowance of an investigational new drug application for a fully human antibody that targets a component of the type 1 interferon pathway, according to Medarex information. It will be studied in patients with scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by hardening and thickening of the skin and other organs.
EntreMed is cutting its space and its rent. The Rockville biotech has reduced the space it rents for its headquarters from Red Gate III LLC at 9460 Medical Center Drive from 46,267 square feet to 8,554 square feet. Under a 12-month lease extension through February 2010, EntreMed's monthly rent drops to $16,288 from about $85,000, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The lease amendment also lets EntreMed use other parts of the premises at no additional cost.
Rexahn Pharmaceuticals in Rockville has begun a phase 2a clinical trial of Serdaxin to treat major depressive disorder. The trial, on up to 100 patients, is expected to yield preliminary data early next year. The company also plans to investigate the drug for treating anxiety disorders, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and neurodegenerative illnesses, plus neuroprotection and biodefense uses.
Lentigen Corp. of Gaithersburg is teaming up with Expression Therapeutics of Atlanta to co-develop novel cell and protein therapies for hemophilia A, an inherited blood-clotting disorder caused by a genetic mutation. The disease affects one in 10,000 people worldwide, according to Lentigen information.
Omnia Biologics in Rockville and Sumagen Co. of London, Ontario, announced that Omnia has completed the manufacture of Sumagen's HIV/AIDS vaccine for a phase 1 clinical trial.
Rockville's Neuralstem said it has received official notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its patent application for stable neural stem cell lines. "The technology behind this patent allows us to grow practically unlimited quantities of neural stem cells from all regions of the brain without regard to the natural mitotic (growth) limits of cells from a particular region," president and CEO Richard Garr said in a statement.