Novigen awarded contract for development of hemorrhagic fever therapeutic

Novigen Pharmaceuticals announced on December 8 that it has been awarded a four year contract from the Department of Defense for the development of the University of Utah’s Slit2N protein therapeutic.

The Transformational Medical Technology Program is looking at Slit2N for the treatment of hemorrhagic fevers resulting from exposure to viruses such as Ebola and Marburg, as well as anthrax infection, according to

Navigen could receive up to $21.5 million in direct support from DOD’s new Defense Threat Reduction Agency over the next four years of the contract, Digital reports.

The technology behind Slit2N comes from the laboratory of Dean Li, director of the Molecular Medicine Program at the University of Utah. It has been licensed by Navigen.

In March 2010, Li and his colleagues from the Molecular Medicine Program released findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine that showed how Slit2N was capable of controlling the effects of inflammatory response to dangerous influenza, sepsis and otherwise virulent infections.

This control of the inflammatory response gives the body’s immune system more time to fight the infection. If left unchecked, inflammation can weaken blood vessels, causing them to leak. In extreme cases, this leaking can lead to non-cardiogenic shock and organ failure.

Li’s system, Slit2N, can prevent these negative effects and stabilize blood vessels. The discovery raised the possibility that broad range therapies could be developed to fight viral and bacterial infections, including man-made agents.

"This is the kind of discovery the Molecular Medicine Program is intended to produce," Li said, according to DigitalJournal. "We've brought together physicians who understand the reality of the clinical world to work with basic scientists on discoveries that translate into real-world answers for patients."

Navigen is delighted by the new source of funding its program has just received.

"We are gratified by the enthusiasm DTRA has shown for the potential usefulness of this technology as a novel approach to a critical biodefense need,” Hunter Jackson, Navigen’s CEO said, reports.