Grant given to fund research into Ebola and Marburg

Dutch pharmaceutical firm Crucell has awarded a significant contract to Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research to develop a vaccine for potential bioterror weapons Ebola and Marburg.

Both the Ebola and Marburg viruses are capable of causing hemorrhagic fever, which is severe and often fatal in humans.

Infection from Ebola and Marbug is characterized by elevated fevers and massive internal bleeding that leads to death in as much as 80 percent of all reported cases.

The contract is initially for $456,216 with additional subcontracts from the biomedical research organization amounting to a possible $2.2 million.

As part of the contract, Jean Patterson, chairwoman of the Department of Virology and Immunology at the Southwest Foundation, will test the efficacy and immunogenicity of a multivalent vaccine against five different strains of the viruses on animal models.

The vaccines will be studied at the Southwest Foundation's high-level biocontainment facilities through 2010.

Crucell was previously awarded $40 million by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create its vaccine, which is derived by inserting genetic material from the virus into a vector to deliver it directly into the immune system.

Ebola and Marbug are currently on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "category A" list of bioterrorism agents because of their associated high mortality rates and lack of vaccine and therapy.