BARDA Funds Drug Development for Biothreats, Antibiotic Resistance

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)'Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has awarded a contract to develop an antibiotic that could be used against possible two types of bioterrorism as well as common infections that are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

The contract to Achaogen Inc. of San Francisco is for $27 million in the first two years. The contract can be extended annually for up to three years for a total of $64 million.

The planned antibiotic, ACHN-490, would be a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat plague and tularemia infections, both of which are possible bioterrorism agents. The antibiotic also could treat many infections that are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic-resistant infections include some of the infections people get when they are hospitalized, including pneumonia from prolonged use of a ventilator and urinary tract infections from using a catheter for an extended period of time. Also under the contract, the company will conduct studies to show that the new antibiotic is safe for children, the elderly, and other special populations.

The contract uses the federal governments new approach to producing medical countermeasures the medications, vaccines, medical equipment and supplies needed for a health emergency. On Aug. 19, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released an examination of the federal governments system to produce medical countermeasures, along with recommendations for a better approach. The recommendations included developing drugs that can be used for bioterrorism as well as common illnesses, and to develop more countermeasures that are safe for children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations.

"This new antibiotic is part of our push against antibiotic resistance for certain bacterial infections, and at the same time could provide a new treatment for plague and tularemia biothreats," said BARDA director Dr. Robin Robinson. "Its the first time BARDA research and development funds have been used in a multi-use approach like this."

The contract is the first under BARDAs Broad Spectrum Antimicrobial Program, one of six areas of advanced research and development that use a contracting tool called a broad agency announcement. The broad agency announcement provides a way to identify innovative and promising technologies that can be developed to protect Americans from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.