Hawaii Biotech receives DoD contract for anti-botulism drug

Hawaii Biotech, Inc., announced on Wednesday that it received a contract worth up to $5.5 million from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to continue developing drugs to block botulinum toxin.

The antitoxin development contract has a first-year period of performance through early 2014 and is followed by three option years worth a total of approximately $5.5 million.

There is currently no therapeutic drug available to treat botulism. Botulinum toxin is considered a category A biodefense threat agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This contract, in addition to the $7.4 million grant for an anti-anthrax drug, demonstrates the confidence that federal agencies have in Hawaii Biotech's ability to develop these drug candidates, as well as our historic commitment to vaccines for tropical and emerging diseases such as West Nile virus," Elliot Parks, the CEO of Hawaii Biotech, said. "Hawaii Biotech is now fully engaged in the development of therapeutic drugs to combat infectious diseases that pose potential bioterrorism threats, as well as continuing development of vaccines for infectious agents."

Under the terms of the contract, Hawaii Biotech will work to improve its current anti-botulinum toxin inhibitor drug candidates, which demonstrated activity in pre-clinical trials. The goal of the contract is to enhance the bioavailability, stability and safety of drug candidates so they can be used in humans.

"We look forward to continuing the productive relationship with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Hawaii Biotech's team to develop countermeasures to bioterrorism threats," Sean O'Malley, the principal investigator on the project, said.