HHS awards $16.8 million grant for antibiotic to fight glanders, melioidosis

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the awarding of a $16.8 million contract on Tuesday to a Swiss company to develop a new antibiotic to treat potential bioterrorism threats.

The Basel, Switzerland-based Basilea Pharmaceutica, Ltd., received the award to develop BAL30072, an antibiotic to treat glanders and melioidosis. If the drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first approved drug to treat the two diseases and could be used to treat other diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, CIDRAP News reports.

The HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will provide Basilea with $16.8 million for the first phase of the program. The contract could be worth up to $89 million over the course of six years.

Melioidosis, which is also known as Whitmore's disease, is caused by the Burkholderia pseudomallei pathogen. Glanders is caused by Burkholderia mallei. According to the HHS, both pathogens commonly cause lung infections, but they can also infect the bloodstream and other parts of the body.

Early studies of BAL30072 demonstrate the potential for treating multi-drug-resistant, gram-negative bacteria found in hospitals, in addition to glanders and melioidosis.

The contract is funded as part of BARDA's Broad-Spectrum Antimicrobials Program, according to CIDRAP News.