Press Release
August 2, 2000

Brentwood, TN -- A $135,590 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant will enable Virtual Drug Development Inc. to continue its search for an antibiotic treatment of the chemical weapon anthrax, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon announced. "VDDI's work is of national importance," Gordon said. "Anthrax, as a military or terrorist weapon, is a grave concern to both military and civilian populations." The Brentwood-based global pharmaceutical development company relies heavily on the Internet as part of its business model. VDDI is licensing the technology for the potential anthrax treatment from the University of Alabama Research Foundation, according to VDDI President Dr. Stephen Porter. NAD synthetase (NADs), the enzyme responsible for the outgrowth and spread of anthrax, was discovered by the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering during a three-year, $6 million research program funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. "Providing effective treatment for people exposed to anthrax must remain a national priority," Porter said. "Despite numerous studies, the effectiveness of the current vaccine remains in serious doubt. "The practical issues of providing the vaccine to those in need also constitutes real problems, due to the rapid progress and fatal nature of this disease, the vague early symptoms and the possibility of anthrax becoming resistant to traditional antibiotics. "Vaccines function by initiating the host antibodies that will quickly recognize Bacillus anthracis or anthrax. Unfortunately, it's relative easy for the enemy to genetically alter the anthrax that these antibodies recognize, making the vaccine less effective or possibly ineffective," Porter said. VDDI will use the HHS Small Business Innovation Research Grant to develop a NADs inhibitor. The inhibitor would hypothetically block and shutdown the NADs enzyme that enables the anthrax bacteria to develop and spread lethal toxins into cells. Porter said it would be extremely difficult for the enemy to genetically alter the enzyme target because doing so would likely adversely affect the bacteria's normal biological function. "VDDI epitomizes the types of companies that benefit from the federal Small Business Innovation Research Grant," Gordon said. "As an Internet company, VDDI believes it can reduce drug development times and costs. This cutting-edge approach may lead to a quicker cure for life-threatening diseases and infections." VDDI's primary focus is on new drugs showing potential for treating cancer, cardiovascular disease and infectious disease and that qualify for U.S. Food and Drug Administration fast-track approval. "I supported the 1996 FDA Reform in which Congress emphasized early access to medical treatment," Gordon said. "The FDA has since expedited access to cancer treatments specifically." By investing in technology and resources instead of traditional bricks and mortar infrastructure, VDDI estimates drug development time may be reduced by up to 50 percent, and drug development costs reduced by up to 25 percent. VDDI is affiliated with other firms in the U.S. and in Germany, Australia and London.

US Representative Bart Gordon Web Site