Ties to Democratic Party by PharmAthene questioned

Fox News has reported on the Obama administration's steering of as much as $150 million in federal funding for an anthrax vaccine to a biodefense firm that holds strong Democratic Party ties.

According to Fox News, executives at PharmAthene, which was awarded the massive contract, as well as its investors and related lobbyists, are longtime contributors to the Democratic Party's causes and campaigns as well as President Obama's 2008 campaign.

The federal funding, awarded on the evening of December 29 in a move many question as being timed to when people wouldn't be paying attention, was posted as a "special notice" by the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the December posting, the publicly held PharmAthene would receive a "contract modification" to allow for an "expansion - that is, without competitive bidding - of an existing contract held with the National Institutes of Health by the company.

The HHS announcement noted that "PharmAthene Inc. has been under contract with the U.S. government since 2003 to develop an (anthrax) vaccine via Contract N01-AI-30052."

According to Fox News, however, this is untrue, as Contract N01-AI-30052, which was awarded following competitive bidding by the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in September 2003, went to the Manchester, England-based Avecia Ltd.

Contract N01-AI-30052, worth as much as $71.3 million, was meant to support Avecia's in developing a vaccine against inhalation anthrax.

PharmAthene acquired Avecia in April 2008 at an estimated cost of $40 million. The modification of Avecia's contract came after the HHS canceled another contract that was being bid upon by both PharmAthene and bidder Emergent BioSolutions.

The contract's cancellation, announced on December 7, because difficulty meeting highly technical licensing requirements was demonstrated by both companies.

Stacey Jurchison, PharmAthene's director of corporate communications, told Fox News that the December 29 extension was made "in order to keep the anthrax vaccines programs 'on track' and 'on schedule.'"

The contract's extension comes at a time when PharmAthene is struggling under the weight of its Avecia acquisition. The company's publicly filed financial reports noted that it posted a net income of -$13.96 million, with cash and equivalents on hand of a little more than $4 million, according to Google Finance.

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National Institutes of Health

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