HHS signs $60 million contract for nerve agent anti-seizure drug

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a $60 million contract with the Columbia, Maryland-based Meridian Medical Technologies, Inc., to conduct studies on an anti-seizure drug candidate.

The five-year Project BioShield contract with the Pfizer company will provide for studies of midazolam to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the drug's use in treating seizures caused by nerve agents. There are currently no approved medications to treat seizures caused by nerve agents.

The contract, from the HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, will also aid Meridian in seeking FDA approval for a midazolam autoinjector for children and adults. Meridian will additionally seek approval of midazolam for use in creating common prolonged seizures.

"Midazolam is the eleventh product to be developed or purchased through Project BioShield in less than 10 years, so we're making unprecedented progress in becoming a more prepared nation, which is critical, especially in light of current chemical threats," Robin Robinson, the director of ASPR's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said. "The repurposing of existing drugs like midazolam shows the flexibility of Project BioShield and the strength of the federal government's enterprise approach to developing products that protect health from chemical and bioterrorism weapons."

Midazolam is approved as a highly effective and fast-acting pre-operative sedative for adults and children. While not approved for treating seizures, the drug may stop prolonged seizures, including seizures caused by nerve agents. Nerve agents attack the nervous system by blocking an enzyme needed to properly control nerve impulses, leading to convulsions or seizures.

Project BioShield is the main mechanism through which the U.S. government supports the procurement and development of new medical countermeasures to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.