Biodefense company pitches novel virus binder to feds

Seeking Project Bioshield R&D money

Biodefense firm Aethlon Medical Inc. in San Diego has developed a hemopurifier cartridge is capable of binding and removing a wide variety of bloodborne pathogenic viruses before they can infect cells and organs, according to a report posted on the firm’s web site.

The company is pursuing federal government funding under Project Bioshield, a $5.6 billion program that President Bush signed into law July 21, for further development of the hemopurifier cartridge.

Aethlon Medical is pioneering the development of viral filtration devices to treat pathogens that are mass-casualty biological warfare candidates. In preclinical human blood studies, the device has demonstrated the ability to remove HIV, hepatitis C virus, and related protein toxins from infected blood, according to the report.

The report is co-authored by Ken Alibek, MD, PhD, DSc, a former researcher in the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program who defected to the United States in 1992. The report’s other author is also high profile: Charles Bailey, PhD, former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The authors "currently serve unpaid on Aethlon Medical’s Science Advisory Board, which they joined in the spring of 2004. It is possible that they may be compensated for future consulting work for the company," the report states.

Each treatment application employs the use of a proprietary technology known as the hemopurifier, which is designed to rapidly reduce the presence of infectious disease and toxins in the body. The hemopurifier converges the established scientific principals of affinity chromatography and hemodialysis as a means to augment the immune response of clearing viruses and toxins from the blood before cell and organ infection can occur, the report states.

The new product is a modified hollow-fiber hemo-dialysis cartridge containing an affinity matrix comprised of antibodies, lectins, or antisense DNA that selectively removes pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and toxins from circulating blood, the report adds. The hemopurifier technology can be rapidly developed, tested, and deployed to remove new resistant strains of biological warfare agents from soldiers and civilians, the company claims. In contrast to the situation with drugs and vaccines, development and initial deployment times of a few months are feasible even for a new agent.

"For example, should a terrorist group develop a new vaccine-resistant strain of smallpox, Aethlon need only find or generate an antibody that reacts with the new virus or toxin," the report states. "Once an antibody is available, Aethlon can build, and test a new hemopurifier in a few weeks. In a recent test scenario, Aethlon made and tested a new binding agent in six days."

In civilian use, the hemopurifier treatment would most likely be implemented in intensive care facilities staffed by trained medical personnel. In the ICU, many patients currently are treated for acute renal failure as the result of trauma or surgery. Such facilities have the equipment and expertise to establish an extracorporeal circuit and pump the patients’ blood through the Hemopurifier, according to the report.

(Editor’s note: To view the full report, go to the company’s web site at www.aethlonmedical.com.)