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By Michael Fitzhugh

Two small California biotechs, Cellerant and Achaogen, have secured new multi-million dollar federal defense contracts to develop technologies for combating potential bioterrorism threats with clinical stage therapies.

San Carlos-based Cellerant won a five-year contract valued at $153 million with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The money will support development of CLT-008, its clinical stage treatment for acute radiation syndrome, a sickness caused by brief high dose radiation exposure. Cellerant will receive up to $63.3 million in the first two years of the contract and up to an additional $89.9 million for another three years if BARDA exercises its option to continue development.

The new contract will help support an early stage trial of CLT-008 that's already under way and eventually, evaluation of the product as a treatment for neutropenia, a blood condition often caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy that leaves patients vulnerable to life-threatening infections. Cellerant earned about $11 million from an earlier contract awarded by BARDA for CLT-008 in September 2008.

Achaogen's $64 million five-year contract with BARDA will support the development of an antibiotic that could be used to fight plague and the fatal infection tularemia, two potential bioterrorism threats. The South San Francisco company's mid-stage antimicrobial ACHN-490, could also be used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections.

Commercial investment in combating bacterial biothreats and multi-drug resistance has been insufficient to date, says Kevin Judice, Achaogen's CEO and CSO.

Achaogen will receive $27 million during the contract's first two years, and potential contract awards for another three years for a total of $64 million.

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.

BARDA director Robin Robinson says the Achaogen contract is part of a new "push against antibiotic resistance for certain bacterial infections" and that it was the first time the Authority had used its research and development funds in a multi-use approach.

Disclosure: No positions

Source: Boon for Biodefense