Hawaii Biotech receives anthrax antitoxin grant from NIAID

Hawaii Biotech, Inc., a suburban Honolulu-based biotechnology company, announced on Tuesday that it received a grant worth up to $7.4 million to develop anthrax antitoxin drugs.

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease will allow Hawaii Biotech to continue screening potent antitoxin small molecules to block the action of the protease component of lethal toxin produced by anthrax bacteria, also known as lethal factor. The grant will support the improvement of current lethal factor inhibitors as drug candidates.

The goal is to improve the stability, safety and bioavailability of the drug candidates to use them in humans as an antidote to anthrax lethal factor intoxication.

"Research and development of vaccines and treatments to protect against infectious diseases will help keep our families and communities healthy and safe," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said. "Hawaii Biotech is doing important work to find vaccines for some of the biggest global health threats, like anthrax, and this grant will help give them the resources they need. Achieving this competitive grant highlights Hawaii's continued growth in the high-level research and development community."

The grant includes a first-year period of performance through the end of 2014's first quarter, valued at $1.1 million. The full five-year grant is worth up to $7.4 million.

"This NIAID grant allows Hawaii Biotech to build our drug development capabilities to match our strong vaccine development franchise," Elliott Parks, the CEO of Hawaii Biotech, said. "In doing so, we hope to help protect the public against biological agents that might be used in an act of bioterrorism."

Anthrax is caused by the gram-positive bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The mortality rate for inhalation anthrax is close to 100 percent if left untreated.