Orlando scientists win Pentagon grant for vaccine against bioterror threats

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Orlando scientists at VaxDesign Corp won a $15 million contract from the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency to develop tests for vaccines that could be used against bioterror threats, using a sophisticated technique in which they simulate a human immune system in a test-tube and test various pathogens and vaccines within it to determine effects. 

This method, which VaxDesign says yields more accurate and cost-effective results than animal testing, can permit hundreds of tests to be run on a single-immune system sample, and can be used to replicate reactions in any age, gender or ethnicity.

As reported Monday in the Orlando Sentinel, VaxDesign’s corporate parent is Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest vaccine maker. Their Orlando laboratories are located at the Central Florida Research Park.

“We create real simulations of the human immune system and measure how they respond to different vaccines against various biothreats,” said William Warren, general manager of VaxDesign and a former defense-department research scientist. “Part of our work will be proving the process, and the other part is deploying the technology for assessing how the vaccines are working.”

VaxDesign is specifically looking at how effective various vaccines are in preventing diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, and yellow fever, as well as deadly viruses that could be involved in bioterrorism, such as tularemia, ricin and Venezuela equine encephalitis.

The company has worked previously with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ research and development unit.

These contracts are not limited by the deficit-reduction sequester cuts in federal spending, as the military may continue to award new contracts for “high-priority initiatives.”