Ten years ago, anthrax-laced letters routed through a post office in Hamilton, N.J., sickened workers and shut the facility down for years. Now, a company located nearby is working to develop the next generation of anthrax vaccine.
Christopher Schaber, CEO of Princeton-based Soligenix, said the company’s vaccine would require fewer injections than the version currently on the market. Preliminary data suggests it could also be kept at room temperature, which would make long-term stockpiling and transporting of supplies easier.
Schaber said the company’s proximity to the Hamilton post office gives their work a special significance.
“Many of our employees and myself live very close and go to that post office. So we’ve experienced those concerns” about Anthrax contamination, Schaber said.
Soligenix received a $9.4 million federal grant for its heat-stabilization research.
Michael Kurilla, director of biodefense research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a vaccine that requires fewer injections would make effective treatment easier in a disaster. The vaccine now on the market requires five shots for pre-exposure use or three for post-exposure use in the event of emergency.
“In any sort of mass casualty situation where you’re trying to cover tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, the multiple dose separated by a couple of weeks becomes a logistical and record-keeping nightmare,” Kurilla said.
The federal government has dedicated hundreds of millions to effective anthrax treatment in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001. Kurilla said his agency is funding research on about half a dozen potential vaccines or vaccine alternatives.