Military awards grant for neurotoxin neutralizers

Morphotek Inc., Exton, announced this week that it has been awarded a large U.S. military grant to help fund its efforts in developing antibodies to neutralize the toxic effects of neurotoxins.

The grant, totaling $947,000, is part of a Department of Defense project to protect civilians and military personnel against potential biowarfare agents.

The biopharmaceutical company, owned by Eisai Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, previously received a $2.3 million grant in 2007, ScienceDaily.com reports.

The company’s main focus is to find a treatment for botulinum neurotoxins.

"DOD's funding for this program demonstrates the importance of developing non-animal derived and safe biological therapies to treat potential exposure to different weaponized BOTN subtypes," Luigi Grasso, the company's chief scientific officer, said, according to Philly.com.

According to the CDC, botulinum neurotoxins are the most toxic substance known to humans, making them a dreaded biological weapon.  

When the deadly protein is ingested or inhaled, less than a billionth of an ounce can cause muscle paralysis and eventual death, ScienceDaily.com reports.

Founded in 2000, Morphotek is one of the leading companies in the life science industry. In addition to this project, it also uses gene evolution technology to develop novel classes of biological-based products to treat cancer and inflammatory and infectious diseases.