ANNAPOLIS, Md., Aug. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE Amex: PIP), a biodefense company developing medical countermeasures against biological and chemical threats, announced today that the Company has been awarded a $5.7 million contract under a Department of Defense (DoD) Broad Agency Announcement for studies directed at the development of an advanced expression system for the bioproduction of its nerve agent medical countermeasure program.
rBChE is a recombinant form of a naturally occurring protein, human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), which is found in minute quantities in blood. It functions as a natural bioscavenger, like a sponge, to absorb toxins such as organophosphorous poisons (nerve agents) and certain pesticides, before they cause irreversible neurological damage.
Preclinical studies in animals suggest rBChE has the potential to provide significant protection against chemical nerve agent poisoning when administered prophylactically (prior to exposure to nerve agent) and also may increase survival when administered therapeutically (following nerve agent exposure).
Funding under the new contract, which has a base period of 18 months, will be used to evaluate a novel mammalian cell-based manufacturing system for rBChE. If successful, this platform could potentially streamline the development approach for rBChE and increase the production yield, manufacturing flexibility, and cost-effectiveness of this program."We have considerable experience in the production and evaluation of recombinant BChE," remarked Dr. Thomas Fuerst, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer. "This contract builds upon the body of knowledge we have established over the years with a specific focus on the expression of rBChE using a novel mammalian cell line that has been used for the advanced-stage bioproduction of other recombinant proteins with considerable FDA oversight and review." Dr. Fuerst continued, "PharmAthene's commitment to innovation has enabled us to continue to develop and advance novel medical countermeasures, based on 21st century biopharmaceutical processes. These contracted studies will advance the state of the art of rBChE technology and, we believe, will position us to better meet the needs of our customer, the U. S. government. PharmAthene's approach is consistent with the government's initiative to support the use of flexible, state-of-the-art technologies to meet the needs of both the military and civilian strategic stockpiles. We are excited about the potential for a mammalian cell-based manufacturing system, which may yield improvements in a second generation product profile, and look forward to a productive collaboration with the DoD in the conduct of these studies that are key to the advancement of important new prophylactic and therapeutic medical countermeasures."