Xoma’s share price soared by almost 40% on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange on Friday after the company revealed that it had been awarded a $15 million dollar contract from the US National Institutes of Health.

Under the terms of the 18-month contract, Xoma will develop three botulinum neurotoxin monoclonal antibodies, designed to protect US citizens against the possible use of biological agents in bioterrorism.

“We have previously stated that an important part of our strategy for achieving profitability is increased utilisation of our process development and manufacturing assets,” said John Castello, Xoma’s president, chairman and chief executive. “This contract with NIAID is an important step forward in achieving this objective.”