Press Release
June 23, 2001 June 23, 2001--
Brentwood drug developer targets $650 million anti-anthrax market
Virtual Drug Development awaits approval of $23 million grant

by Alexei Smirnov

Dr. Stephen Porter Friday, 6/22/2001 11:18 am -
A Brentwood biotechnology firm awaiting a $23 million federal research grant expects to finish developing an anthrax antidote that could have a potential market of as much as $650 million.

Virtual Drug Development Inc. (VDDI), a closely held company that harnesses the talents of a global network of scientists, recently acquired rights to an antibiotic under development at University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). The treatment, if successful, will allow combat soldiers to take pills during periods of possible exposure to the highly infectious and lethal bacteria. Now soldiers must be vaccinated months in advance of possible exposures.

"This treatment has a $150 million market for U.S. military use and another half a billion dollars from friendly nations in Europe and elsewhere," Dr. Stephen Porter, a former executive with Therapeutic Antibodies and president and chief executive of VDDI, told

Anthrax is one of the most deadly chemical agents used in weapons of mass destruction. A small aerosol can of the colorless, odorless agent is capable of killing 200,000 people in 48 hours.

The anthrax antibiotic is being developed at UAB's Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering. Originally conceived by a NASA scientist under a $6 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant, the treatment could be on the market in 36 months if the larger grant is approved. A grant request has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Defense and could be approved during the fall budget hearings, Dr. Porter said.

The $23 million grant would underwrite the cost of developing "small molecule treatment," pre-clinical studies, Food & Drug Administration filings, and human trials.

The agreement between VDDI and UAB calls for UAB's laboratory to continue research on the treatment; in return UAB retains up to four percent of the gross sales of licensed products sold by VDDI and has a combined 15% equity position with VDDI as part of the license. UAB also will receive up to $600,000 in the first year of the Department of Defense grant.

Israel and Japan already have expressed interest in buying the antibiotic when it is available, Dr. Porter said. The treatment is sought after because so-called "rogue nations" -- such as North Korea, Iraq, and Iran -- are thought to be bioengineering strains of anthrax that will render the existing anthrax treatment ineffective. Dr. Porter, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Michigan, expects the antibiotic to be more resistant to other strains of the chemical agent.

Virtual Drug Development maintains offices on Franklin Road in Brentwood and in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Among its board members is Douglas Altenbern, who in the early 1980s led Endata Inc., merged it with First Financial Management, and more recently created Argosy Network Corp. and Pay Systems of America.

© 2001



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