Local biotech firm wins grant to develop vaccines for two viruses

Profectus BioSciences Inc., a Baltimore-based biotechnology company, said Wednesday that it won a $5.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the development of a vaccine for a pair of contagious and deadly viruses that the U.S. government has classified as biological and agricultural threats. The viruses are found in other parts of the world.

The viruses — Nipah and Hendra — are closely related and cause respiratory and encephalitic disease in humans and animals. The virus is carried primarily by the flying fox, a bat found in Australia and Southeast Asia. The viruses cause death in 75 percent of cases.

Profectus is collaborating with scientists at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, as well as with experts in Australia and Texas, the company said. The company is an offshoot of the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology, founded by Dr. Robert C. Gallo, who co-discovered the HIV virus as the cause of AIDS.

Last week, Profectus said it won a $5.4 million grant to develop a vaccine for Marburg and Ebola viruses in collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.



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