MRIGlobal has received $6.2 million from the federal government to develop a vaccine for tularemia, a rare disease that is highly contagious and potentially fatal.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency awarded the money to MRIGlobal, which is leading an international team of scientists from Canada, the United States and Sweden, the Kansas City-based research company announced Wednesday. The award will be distributed over five years.
Fifty-seven cases of tularemia, which is also called rabbit fever, were reported in Missouri and Kansas in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease affects humans and animals, though rabbits and rodents are especially susceptible.
Tularemia, which the CDC says is very infectious, has the potential to be weaponized and to cause severe respiratory illness. The disease can also be transmitted to humans through tick and deerfly bites or contact with infected animals.
MRIGlobal was a part of past research into tularemia that resulted in a promising vaccine that was more protective than other options. This award will support manufacturing of the vaccine and large-animal studies. The researchers will also be looking at how the vaccine produces immunity.