BioCryst Ebola Drug Awarded Funding for Tests

8/29/14Follow @frankvinluan

An experimental Ebola drug from BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: BCRX) now has funding for tests in monkeys, a step away from testing the treatment in humans.

BioCryst says it expects tests of its experimental Ebola treatment will start “within weeks.” The Durham, NC company says the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has awarded $2.4 million for the research.

BioCryst is developing its experimental broad-spectrum antiviral, called BCX4430, under a five-year, $22 million contract with NIAID. BCX4430 has already been tested in monkeys as a treatment for Marburg virus. In a study published earlier this year, monkeys infected with Marburg that were treated with BioCryst’s antiviral recovered. Meanwhile, lab tests of BCX4430 showed activity against different species of Ebola virus.

The original NIAID contract covered development of an antiviral to treat Marburg infection. To date, BioCryst had been awarded $13.5 million in funding under that contract. The new funding for Ebola tests in animals represents an addition to that contract, bringing the contract’s total value to $24.4 million.

BCX4430 is being developed under the government’s “animal rule” regulatory pathway. That rule is reserved for life-threatening infectious diseases, where tests in humans pose too great a safety risk. Under the animal rule, the antiviral’s efficacy will be tested in animals infected with Ebola. But to demonstrate the compound’s safety, BioCryst will only need to test BCX4430 in uninfected humans.

BioCryst is not the only Ebola drug developer whose work has been supported by federal funds. San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, whose experimental ZMapp antiviral was used to treat two Americans infected with Ebola, is currently seeking federal funds to manufacture more of its Ebola drug.

Frank Vinluan is a contributing editor at Xconomy, based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan@xconomy.com Follow @frankvinluan

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