A U.S. government agency awarded a $19.7 million contract to Emergent Biosolutions to develop a treatment for the Ebola virus.
Through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) contract, Emergent will manufacture an Ebola drug similar to the experimental ZMapp treatment that was used to treat American patients during last year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The drug will be manufactured at Emergent’s facility in East Baltimore.
In 2012, the company’s Bayview campus was designated as a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) by the federal government, giving it increased potential to land such jobs. This contract is the first Ebola-related contract BARDA awarded under that public-private partnership model.
ZMapp, which was developed by manufacturing antibodies from tobacco plants, got attention after it was used on three American patients infected with Ebola in West Africa in 2014. With no vaccine for Ebola available, medical pros were seeking solutions that could be used in a hurry. Two of the U.S. patients who were given the drug ultimately survived. However, a Maryland surgeon who was given the treatment later died.
In the fall, the U.S. government announced plans to further study ZMapp. Emergent’s contract represents a step in that effort. Specifically, Emergent will develop and manufacture three monoclonal antibodies. Instead of ZMapp’s tobacco cells, however, the company’s scientists will use Chinese hamster ovary cells.
The Ebola outbreak has slowed down in West Africa, but the deadly virus is lingering.
According to the World Health Organization, 30 new cases were reported last week. BARDA’s efforts reflect an outpouring of U.S. government funding that came amid the outbreak as officials sought to develop a vaccine that would curb the disease, and prevent a public health crisis of that magnitude from happening again.
Earlier this year, Emergent made a separate booster for an Ebola vaccine that is undergoing trials in Europe.
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