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.
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 NashvillePost.com.
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.
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