Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation (TSX:TKM), a leader in RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics, announced today that, together with collaborators at The University of Texas Medical Branch, it has been awarded a new United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to support research to develop RNAi therapeutics to treat Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever viral infections using Tekmira's lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology.
The grant, worth US$2.4 million, will support work at Tekmira and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas.
Dr. Mark J. Murray, Tekmira's President and CEO, said, "We are pleased to receive this NIH grant with our collaborators at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who are leaders in the field of hemorrhagic fever virus research. This work builds upon our recently published work, where we reported that our TKM-Ebola product candidate provided complete protection of non-human primates from a lethal dose of Ebola virus. The NIH grant is consistent with our strategy of leveraging external funding to advance our LNP technology and product candidates in certain infectious diseases, including Ebola and Marburg."
Dr. Thomas W. Geisbert, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said, "We are excited to continue our work with Tekmira developing RNAi therapeutics for the treatment of Marburg as well as non-Zaire species of Ebola virus. Our goal is to generate data that supports the development of product candidates to combat these devastating diseases."
Dr. Geisbert led the collaboration with Tekmira resulting in a paper published in The Lancet (Geisbert et al., "Post exposure protection of non-human primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof of concept study", The Lancet, Vol 375, May 29, 2010) describing the antiviral activity of small interfering RNA (siRNA) enabled by Tekmira's LNP technology targeting the Ebola virus (TKM-Ebola). When used to treat previously infected non-human primates, TKM-Ebola resulted in 100% protection from an otherwise lethal dose of Zaire Ebola virus.
Tekmira is developing TKM-Ebola under a US$140 million contract awarded to Tekmira by the U.S. Government's Transformational Medical Technologies (TMT) Program. The TMT contract will support the development of TKM-Ebola through FDA approval. Tekmira expects to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for TKM-Ebola in the second half of 2011.
Tekmira believes its LNP technology represents the most widely adopted delivery technology for the systemic delivery of RNAi therapeutics. Tekmira's LNP platform is being utilized in multiple preclinical and clinical trials by both Tekmira and its partners.