Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Grant provides $3.5 million for anthrax vaccine study in Seattle

November 2, 2004, 6:01 AM
SEATTLE (AP) -- A research team has been awarded a $3.5 million federal grant to use a molecular detective technique to study and potentially improve the military's anthrax vaccine.
Anthrax bacteria can be used as a bioterrorism or germ warfare agent.
Lansing, Mich.-based BioPort Corp. has a $245 million contract with the Pentagon to supply the military with anthrax vaccine. On Oct. 27, a federal judge ordered a halt to the mandatory anthrax vaccination program for U.S. military personnel.
Bioport uses the decades-old technique of filtering killed bacteria. It is administered in six injections over 18 months and must be repeated regularly to maintain immunity.
The grant to the Benaroya Research Institute was one of 14 announced Monday in a $74 million program by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop better vaccines or medications for use against infectious agents.
The team headed by Dr. Gerald T. Nepom, director of the private, nonprofit institute at Virginia Mason Hospital, has developed artificial molecules called "tetramers" for the anthrax vaccine research.
Service personnel sued the Defense Department, arguing that the vaccine was rushed through approval before the Iraq war and saying evidence indicates it has caused immune illnesses in a significant number of soldiers.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has maintained that the "vaccine is safe and effective," but many scientists view it as crude and cumbersome to administer.
Nepom and Dr. William W. Kwok, principal investigator on the Benaroya project, say their engineered molecule provides a streamlined, more accurate test that could soon point the way to a better vaccine.

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