Pfenex won a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) contract worth an initial $2.18 million to support development of a dry formulation of the firm’s Pfenex-rPA (recombinant protective antigen) anthrax vaccine that will be suitable for needle-free delivery and stable for long-term storage. Under terms of the NIAID contract Pfenex could receive further funding of up to $22.9 million if all options are exercised.

Under an existing BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) contract the firm has already developed an rPA construct that has proven highly immunogenic and protective in animal studies, and can be generated through a scalable production process at high yield. In May BARDA extended the contract to further support the development of its Pfenex Expression Technology™-based production strain and process for the manufacture of bulk recombinant protective antigen (rPA).

“Pfenex is pleased to be awarded this contract from NIAID to progress an additional development path for our anthrax vaccine program,” comments Bertrand C. Liang, CEO. “We believe this important countermeasure effort can provide a solution to the U.S. government quest to stockpile sufficient vaccine doses to rapidly respond to an anthrax biothreat. A recombinant solution for the production of this strategically relevant product has been sought for a number of years, and with continued government support and partnership we are confident Pfenex can deliver that solution.”

Pfenex is exploiting its recombinant protein expression expertise for a broad range of applications including therapeutic proteins, vaccines, research, reagents, and biosimilars. The firm’s capabilities are founded on its core Pseudomonas fluorescens-based Pfenex Expression Technology. The platform combines a suite of expression components with a high-throughput parallel strain screening technology that the firm claims allows the construction and testing of 1,000s of expression strains within just weeks, to identify production strains capable of expressing even very complex proteins at high titers.

The Pfenex in-house and partnered pipeline includes biosimilars of ranibizumab, interferon beta 1b, human growth hormone, and granulocyte colony-stimulating factors, along with the BARDA-funded rPA anthrax vaccine program, and a malaria vaccine program supported by NIAID.

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