Chimerix receives contract for smallpox antiviral

Chimerix, Inc., of Durham, North Carolina, has received a renewable $24.8 million federal contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to support the development of a new antiviral drug that will treat smallpox.

BARDA acts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The contract can be renewed for an additional four years for a five year total of up to $81.1 million.

“A critical component of the U.S. strategy for protecting the public against intentional or unintentional release of the smallpox virus is having two smallpox antiviral drugs,” Dr. Robin Robinson, director of BARDA, said. “In the event of a smallpox outbreak, a smallpox antiviral could augment our plans to use a vaccine because an antiviral medication can treat people who get the vaccine too late for the vaccine to be effective. An antiviral can save lives.”

Routine smallpox vaccination ended in the United States in the early 1970s. The World Health Organization declared the disease eradicated worldwide in the 1980s. The variola virus, which causes smallpox, is currently kept at two WHO-approved repositories in Russia and the United States.

While the Strategic National Stockpile includes a smallpox vaccine, the current vaccines only protect if people are vaccinated before or very soon after exposure. The CMX-001 vaccine currently under development could potentially be used to treat those who already have symptoms and could treat other virus infections like cytomegalovirus, BK virus and adenovirus.