Profectus BioSciences said today it won a $4.6 million Department of Defense grant to support accelerated preclinical development and testing of a vaccine to protect soldiers against aerosol exposure to the Western, Eastern, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses.

The grant follows preliminary studies by Profectus and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), which according to Profectus, showed that vaccines based on the company’s VesiculoVax™ platform provide rapid and durable protection of animals against lethal Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) disease.

The VesiculoVax-VEEV and VesiculoVax-EEEV vaccines used in these studies were based on recombinant Isfahan virus (rISFV) that was engineered to express surface structures of VEEV and EEEV. ISFV is a vesiculovirus that is related to—but serologically and genetically distinct from—the prototype vesicular stomatitis virus vector used in the Ebola vaccine that Profectus has in development.

“We welcome this opportunity to extend our partnership with Medical Countermeasure Systems,” Profectus CSO John Eldridge, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Our multi-vector vaccine platform is well suited to address the multiple vaccine needs of MCS.”

VesiculoVax is a delivery system for vaccines designed to fight emerging infectious disease indications, where rapid induction of neutralizing antibodies is needed to protect against the viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa; encephalitic disease; and arthralgic diseases such as Chikungunya.

The technology behind VesiculoVax vaccine delivery technology is based on research by John Rose, Ph.D., of Yale University. Profectus scientists later introduced multiple non-reversible genetic modifications designed to synergistically attenuate the vesiculoviruses and provide vectors that are safe for human use.

Profectus has extended VesiculoVax by conducting studies with UTMB researchers that have identified additional vesiculoviruses with potential use as vaccine vectors.

The grant was awarded by the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Natick Contracting Division, Fort Detrick, MD, in support of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) Medical Countermeasure Systems–Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program (MCS-JVAP).

MCS-JVAP is a Department of Defense agency whose mission is to develop, produce, and stockpile FDA-licensed vaccine systems to protect the warfighter from biological agents. MCS-JVAP facilitates advanced development and acquisition of medical countermeasures and systems to enhance U.S. biodefense response capability.

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