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Antibodies against Anthrax Toxins: A Long Way from Benchlab to the Bedside

Avril, A;Tournier, J;Paucod, J;Fournes, B;Thullier, P;Pelat, T;

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, and is a potential biowarfare/bioterrorist agent. Its pulmonary form, caused by inhalation of the spores, is highly lethal and is mainly related to injury caused by the toxins secretion. Antibodies neutralizing the toxins of B. anthracis are regarded as promising therapeutic drugs, and two are already approved by the Federal Drug Administration. We developed a recombinant human-like humanized antibody, 35PA83 6.20, that binds the protective antigen and that neutralized anthrax toxins in-vivo in White New Zealand rabbits infected with the lethal 9602 strain by intranasal route. Considering these promising results, the preclinical and clinical phase one development was funded and a program was started. Unfortunately, after 5 years, the preclinical development was cancelled due to industrial and scientific issues. This shutdown underlined the difficulty particularly, but not only, for an academic laboratory to proceed to clinical development, despite the drug candidate being promising. Here, we review our strategy and some preliminary results, and we discuss the issues that led to the no-go decision of the pre-clinical development of 35PA83 6.20 mAb. Our review provides general information to the laboratories planning a (pre-)clinical development.