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GEN News Highlights : Oct 11, 2011

United Therapeutics Wins NIAID Contract Worth $45M to Develop Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Drug

Funding will support preclinical development of candidate against dengue and influenza.

United Therapeutics’ subsidiary Unither Virology won a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) contract worth up to $45 million over five years to develop a broad-spectrum antiviral drug for diseases such as dengue and flu, based on its glycobiology antiviral platform. About $10.6 million in funding will be provided over the initial 42 months of the contract. The remaining finance will be allocated through eight milestone-based options.

The funding will support preclinical safety and efficacy studies aimed at enabling clinical trials of the candidate against dengue, and also preclinical studies that will generate additional data for development of the candidate against influenza. The contract means Unither Virology will be able to create about 20 new jobs at its headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.

Unither’s glycobiology-based antiviral agents were originally developed and licensed under a research agreement with the Oxford Glycobiology Institute. The iminosugar molecules are designed to enter host cells and inhibit the chemical pathways that viruses use to fold their proteins. Unither says that because the iminosugars impact on the host cell rather than attacking the virus directly, the technology reduces the likelihood of drug-resistant virus strains emerging. Laboratory tests have indicated the iminosugar molecules are active against at least five different families of viruses.