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Profectus lands $9.5M defense contract for broader Ebola vaccine

Tim Fouts, senior director of virology (left) and Jeff Meshulam, president, of Profectus Biosciences.
Tim Fouts, senior director of virology (left) and Jeff Meshulam, president, of Profectus Biosciences. (Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun)

Profectus BioSciences announced Friday its third round of government investment this month for an Ebola vaccine, receiving a $9.5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Baltimore-based company has received nearly $27 million this month from the defense department and Department of Health and Human Services, and $32 million in all since the ongoing Ebola outbreak began in West Africa late last year.

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Unlike previous investments that focused on a vaccine designed specifically for the strain of Ebola present in the outbreak, Profectus' most recent contract focuses on a vaccine that would offer more broad protection against two types of Ebola as well as the Marburg virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola.

Profectus is working first on the vaccine for Ebola Zaire, the strain that has killed thousands in West Africa this year, with plans to advance it to clinical trials by June 2015, Profectus President Jeffrey Meshulam said. By fall, the company plans to begin testing of what is a called a "trivalent" vaccine that would build immunity to three pathogens – Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan and Marburg, he said.

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"While the urgent need today is for a vaccine that protects against the current Ebola Zaire outbreak, we are also anticipating the needs for tomorrow," LTC Victor Suarez, joint product manager for the defense department's Medical Countermeasure Systems-Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program.

The program hired Profectus through an existing contract with Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle is working with Profectus on the manufacturing and clinical evaluation of the vaccines and with Charles River Laboratories and Biologics Consulting Group on preclinical testing and preparation for Food and Drug Administration review.

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