Promising anthrax drugs in the pipeline

Several biotech companies are working on a promising new set of drugs to protect the human body from the ravages of anthrax, one of the more feared potential weapons of bioterrorism.

Emergent BioSolutions and Elusys are both seeking a cure that is as safe and effective as it is practical. Designing a cure for anthrax is not as difficult as designing a cure for anthrax that can be mass produced, delivered in one dose and lacks major side effects, according to International Business Times.

The antibiotic Cipro is thought to be relatively effective in the fight against anthrax, but a patient has to take it for several weeks, and it has the risk of causing nausea as well as other side effects. Most importantly, if the anthrax had been inhaled, it would most likely be too late to use antibiotics if the victim had already shown symptoms.

For those planning to treat the victims of a biological terror attack, this is unacceptable. Aerosolized anthrax is the deadliest form of the toxin and the most likely to be used in the event of an attack.

Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., has the only anthrax vaccine, BioThrax, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is currently working on anthrax immunoglobulin treatments that are designed to be given at the onset of symptoms, International Business Times reports.

Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., is also at the forefront of developing the next generation of vaccines that stimulate an immune response to protective antigen, as well as a monoclonal antibody treatment. Protective antigen is a protein produced by the anthrax bacteria that combines with others to make a molecule that causes cell damage.

A monoclonal antibody binds directly to protective antigen and, by doing so, prevents it from linking up with more protective antigen to create a toxic molecule.

Elusys has a protective antigen monoclonal antibody treatment as well but, though it has shown promise in animal testing, it is thought to be years away from potential use in humans.