Achaogen receives BARDA contract to fight biowarfare agents

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority have awarded a contract to a San Francisco biotechnology firm to develop an antibiotic that will protect against biological warfare agents.

The $27 million contract is with Achaogen Inc. for two years, with the option to extend the contract annually for three years up to a total of $64 million.

Officials hope that the antibiotic will protect against two types of bioterrorist agents and common infections that have become resistant to antibiotics. The antibiotic, ACHN-490, is a broad-spectrum antibiotic typically used to treat plague and tularemia infections.

In August, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a report on the government’s medical countermeasure protocol and recommendations for better approaches. Some of the recommendations included developing drugs to be used against biowarfare agents and common illnesses, and to develop more countermeasures that are safe for children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

BARDA Director Dr. Robin Robinson said the implementation of the recommendations will be helpful.

“This new antibiotic is part of our push against antibiotic resistance for certain bacterial infections, and at the same time could provide a new treatment for plague and tularemia biothreats,” Robinson said. “It’s the first time BARDA research and development funds have been used in a multi-use approach like this.”

The contract is the first under BARDA’s Broad Spectrum Antimicrobial Program, one of six areas of advanced research and development.