KU researchers develop bio-terror vaccine

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Anthrax MoleculeAn anthrax vaccine developed by three KU researchers is in its second stage of clinical testing.

The vaccine is a stabilized liquid form of the current anthrax vaccine, which is difficult to transport and store because its temperature must remain constant. Duane Brandau, Sangeeta Joshi and Laura Peek, KU research professors, developed a stabilized liquid form of the vaccine and sent it to a laboratory that converted their vaccine to a powder form. Then the vaccine went to its first of up to four stages of clinical testing. The powder vaccine doesn’t have such specific conditons for storage, making it easier to transport. It is administered through an inhaler or a nasal spray. The current vaccine is a liquid and administered by injection.

“The University of Kansas has a responsibility to address this public health risk,” said Kevin Boatright, director of research communications. “KU is in a good position to develop that kind of vaccine.”

Russ Middaugh, distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, is in charge of the laboratory that began developing the vaccine in 2002. He said the goal was for the vaccine to be able to be stored at various places around the country and quickly sent to people in case of a bioterrorism attack.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, only one form of the anthrax vaccine is licensed in the United States but several are being tested. Middaugh said if the vaccine developed at the University was approved it would probably be after four to six years. “I think it has a good chance of working,” he said.

Middaugh said the forms being tested all differed from one another. “Anthrax is a bacterium and people use different pieces of the bacterium to make a vaccine,” Middaugh said. “They also use different delivery methods.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the event of a bio-terrorist attack using anthrax the people exposed would receive the current anthrax vaccine.

Middaugh’s laboratories specialize in stabilizing vaccines. They stabilized a form of the ricin vaccine, which just completed its first stage of clinical testing. Currently they’re working to stabilize the measles vaccine.

Middaugh said he didn’t think about whether the anthrax vaccine would be approved in clinical trials. “We’ve learned with time that we can’t predict.”

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