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BioReliance to make smallpox vaccine for civilians


BioReliance Corp. has been chosen to manufacture a stockpile of at least 40 million smallpox vaccine doses to protect U.S. civilians in case of biological warfare.

The agreement is part of a broader U.S. government effort to protect the nation against the use of biological agents as weapons. Rockville-based BioReliance, a contract manufacturer, already had been chosen under a separate agreement to manufacture a stockpile of smallpox vaccine for the U.S. military.

The civilian contract, however, is far larger.

BioReliance declined to say how much revenue the agreement might mean. But its take will be an undisclosed share of the estimated $343 million the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will pay over the next 20 years for production and storage of the stockpile, along with needles to administer it.

The 20-year contract is with Cambridge, Mass.-based OraVax Inc. BioReliance is the sole manufacturing subcontractor, BioReliance Chief Financial Officer John L. Coker said.

Smallpox was declared eradicated worldwide in the 1970s, but scientists have worried in recent years that its demise - and the discontinuation of inoculations against the disease - opened the doors for its use by bioterrorists.

Coker described his company's share of the contract as "significant." The company will provide testing to support the development of the vaccine as well as pilot production and manufacturing. "But," he said, "let's not forget that we are a subcontractor."

OraVax will get a larger portion of the revenue over the next 20 years, and other subcontractors also will get shares for storing the vaccine, providing special needles for it and other tasks. OraVax has said it expects delivery of the first doses for stockpiling in mid-2004.

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