Tekmira Pharmaceuticals received a contract that could total $140 million to develop an RNAi therapeutic for Ebola virus infection. The project, supported by the DoD Chemical and Biological Defense Program, will leverage the company’s lipid nanoparticle technology called SNALP (stable nucleic acid-lipid particle).
More than 15% of the estimated value of this award will be subcontracted to U.S. businesses. Tekmira has a U.S. affiliate based in Washington called Protiva USA.
Under the initial phase of the contract, which is funded as part of the Transformational Medical Technologies (TMT) program, Tekmira is eligible to receive up to $34.7 million over the next three years. The focus will be on preclinical development, IND filing, and completion of a Phase I trial.
TMT has the option of extending the contract to support the advancement of the Ebola SNALP product through clinical development and FDA approval. This would provide Tekmira with up to $105.3 million.
“This work builds on our recently published research, where we reported that Ebola SNALP could confer complete protection to nonhuman primates from a lethal dose of Ebola virus,” Mark J. Murray, Ph.D., Tekmira’s president and CEO.
In May the company working in collaboration with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases published data in The Lancet describing the antiviral activity of an siRNA in SNALP targeting the Ebola virus.
When used to treat previously infected nonhuman primates, Ebola SNALP resulted in 100% protection from an otherwise lethal dose of Zaire Ebola virus, as reported in the paper titled “Post exposure protection of nonhuman primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof of concept study.”
Tekmira explains that its SNALP encapsulates siRNAs with high efficiency in uniform lipid nanoparticles, which are safe and effective in delivering RNAi therapeutics to disease sites in numerous preclinical models. SNALP formulations comprise several lipid components that can be adjusted to suit the specific application and are manufactured by a proprietary method, which is robust, scalable, and highly reproducible, the firm adds.