Israel co. completes first phase of nerve agent protection tests

Officials with the Israeli company Protalix Biotherapeutics recently announced it has completed the first phase of clinical trials on humans with the PRX-105, a drug that aims to protect against nerve agents and organic phosphorous compounds used in the pest control industry.

While the only known military use of nerve agents occurred was in the Iran-Iraq conflict in the early 1980s, intelligence agencies have identified many countries with the technical abilities to prepare them for use, reports.

One of the most widely known incidents of nerve agent use against civilians was the 1995 terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway system, when the nerve agent sarin was released, killing 13 people and seriously harming 50 others.

Dr. David Aviezer, Protalix's president and CEO, told that there is definitely a need for a drug that can neutralize the effects of nerve gases.

“Nerve gas is a threat in the eyes of defense authorities,” Aviezer told “That’s why [in Israel] we all have gas masks. The potential threat is a concern worldwide and the defense authorities of the world are preparing a means to be able to be protected against the threat.”

Aviezer said it was possible that regulatory procedures, through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, may be sped up if PRX-105 does offer effective protection against nerve agents.

The drug is currently filed under an Exploratory Investigational New Drug (IND) application. Developed through the genetic engineering of carrot cells, PRX-105 is an enzyme based on a molecule licensed to Protalix by Yissum, the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.