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EluSys Gets Grant for Anthrax Drug

September 7, 2002

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A biotech startup company has won a $2.8 million federal grant to help refine technology to destroy toxins that anthrax bacteria release in the bloodstream.

The grant is the government’s first for an agent to rapidly clear anthrax toxin from the blood. The funding will enable EluSys Therapeutics Inc. to speed up its research, said Linda Nardone, vice president for clinical and regulatory affairs.

``If all goes well, I think we would be ready to go into human (safety) testing within two years,″ she said Friday.

Then it will take at least another year to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell a drug that would be given to people infected by anthrax.

Researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases will first have to prove the drug’s effectiveness by giving it to rhesus monkeys injected with anthrax toxin.

While antibiotics can kill anthrax bacteria, they don’t affect toxins the bacteria have spewed into the blood. Those toxins inflame and kill cells in blood vessels and organs, often killing patients not diagnosed promptly.

Because the anthrax vaccine must be administered six times over 18 months, with yearly booster shots to get full immunity, the federal government has been seeking better ways to protect the public should another attack occur.

EluSys, based in Montville, has been collaborating with scientists at the Army institute. The institute supplied EluSys with anthrax toxins _ but not the dangerous spores _ for testing.

Under the grant, EluSys scientists will use genetic engineering to create a human version of mouse antibodies that identify and bind to anthrax toxins, said Leslie Casey, senior director of research and head of the anthrax project at EluSys.

The researchers already have made a human version of a mouse antibody that binds to the receptor on red blood cells.

The drug will be tested on mice injected with anthrax at labs at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.

An Army spokesman confirmed the one-year grant was awarded and will be administered by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, but was unable to provide further details Friday.

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On the Net: http://www.elusys.com

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