The US government could be handing over up to £14 million to the UK's Health Protection Agency for the development of an Anthrax vaccine.

Specifically, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded the HPA a £4 million contract to develop a next generation anthrax jab at its facilities in Porton, Wiltshire.

But if all milestones are met, the deal could actually be worth up to £14 million to the UK agency.

The project aims to combine the HPA’s expertise with anthrax vaccine antigens with US group NanoBio’s adjuvant technology, which enables a vaccine to be delivered by fewer doses via an intra-nasal spray instead of an injection.

"We already manufacture anthrax vaccine for the UK and our expertise in this area is essential for the success of this programme," noted Roger Hinton, principal investigator and head of development and production at HPA Porton.

The Agency's site in Porton undertakes both basic and applied research into understanding infectious diseases, as well as translational research alongside its partners in industry and academia to develop and test interventions for public health, such as new vaccines.

Currently, vaccination against anthrax is only recommended for those at high risk from contracting the disease, such as people working with animal hides or in abattoirs.

Terror threat

However, the small but growing threat of biological terrorism have moved governments around the globe into ensuring they are well prepared for a deliberate release of anthrax spores, such as the case in 2001 were letters containing spores of the organism were sent through the postal system in the US.

The HPA was set up in 2003 as an independent body tasked with better protecting the public from the threat of infectious diseases and environmental hazards. As of April next year, the Agency is destined to form part of the incoming organisation Public Health England.