Xoma begins botulism antibody testing

As part of an early-stage trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Xoma Ltd. has begun testing an antibody treatment aimed at preventing botulism poisoning.

The study is focused on the use of botulism poisoning as part of a biological attack. The 24 patient Phase I trial will be held at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the San Francisco Business Times reports.  

XOMA 3AB, the antibody treatment, is the Berkley-based Xoma Ltd.'s most advanced research and development program. It uses three antibodies in combination that are meant to neutralize the botulism neurotoxin at very low doses.

The study comes on the heels of preclinical work from the lab of Dr. James Mark, an anesthesia professor at the University of California - San Francisco. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

Botulism toxin, created by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, is thought to be a potential biological weapon that could be use in terrorist attack. Exposure to the toxin can lead to muscle paralysis and eventual death.

In current antitoxin treatment methods, the severity of symptoms can be reduced if administered early in the course of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most patients of this treatment eventually recover after weeks to months of supportive care.

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