Microbiologist receives DoD contract to research tularemia vaccine

Karl Klose, a microbiologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), received a contract to conduct research to close the gap on developing a tularemia vaccine, the university said on Monday.

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is highly infectious and potentially fatal when introduced in the lungs. The disease has been developed as a bioweapon by several countries.

"Natural cases of tularemia are very rare," Klose said. "However the use of Francisella tularensis as a bioweapon could be devastating because it takes very little of the bacterium to cause an infection. This research will help us get closer to creating a vaccine for tularemia that would protect humans from its illicit use."

Klose and his collaborators at UTSA identified a method to create a tularemia vaccine from a live bacterium that was rendered harmless. The vaccine candidate must be refined to optimize the protection it provides against the disease and advance the research to translational studies.

The contract awarded by the DoD's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) includes $1 million in initial funding and option periods worth $2.6 million and $1.1 million. The DTRA protects America and its allies from weapons of mass destruction by providing capabilities to counter, eliminate and reduce threats and mitigate their effects.