Emergent BioSolutions announced plans Monday to develop and manufacture a treatment for the Ebola virus. The Maryland-based biopharmaceutical firm was awarded a federal contract valued at nearly $20 million.
Under the terms of the two-year deal, Emergent will produce Ebola monoclonal antibodies. The deal is funded through the Department of Defense's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority under the agency's Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing program.
“Emergent is pleased to work with BARDA on this contract, which reflects the government's commitment to enhancing public-private partnerships and, together, taking steps to achieve a state of readiness against emerging public health threats,” Adam Havey, executive vice president and president of Emergent's biodefense division, said in a statement. “We look forward to working collaboratively with the government to further this important program.”
The move comes as the world's focus on the development of an Ebola treatment has lessened after a significant drop in the number of cases in the most affected countries.
The announcement came the same day as Vancouver-based drug company Tekmira Pharmaceuticals said it plans to halt clinical trials of its experimental Ebola treatment, TKM-Ebola, to focus on developing a treatment for hepatitis B.
Last month, Tekmira announced it had stopped clinical trials of its drug after it was found to not have a significant benefit to patients. The company was under contract by the Defense Department to develop an Ebola treatment in a deal valued at $140 million. In a statement, Tekmira stated a joint “re-evaluation of the development contract with the US Department of Defense is underway."
The decision came as part of Tekmira's announcement that the company was changing it name to Arbutus Biopharma Corp. effective Aug. 3.
There have been more than 27,000 cases of Ebola in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as of July 12 since the outbreak began last year, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. Though the pace of the spread of the disease has waned, a total of 30 newly confirmed cases were reported in the region during the week of July 12.