Austin company using human protein to thwart bio-terrorism

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST and editor ROB DIAZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Global unrest and ongoing security concerns over terrorism continue to mount around the world. Now an Austin company is developing a bio-terrorism radiation counter measure for the military, first responders and civilians, and it all starts with a simple protein found inside the body.

The specter of a terrorist attack has hung over the Sochi Winter Olympics like the medals worn around the necks of the athletes. How would security and first responders be able to respond to an attack involving radiation? The answer may be found 6,676 miles away in Austin.

They’re not making their own beer at Terapio Corporation on Bee Caves, but they are brewing some homegrown protein, specifically the RLIP76 protein found naturally in the body that deals with oxidative stress.

“People have heard of antioxidants before, but antioxidants just really deal with things that are short-lived in your body,”
said Curt Bilby, PhD, the president and CEO of Terapio Corp.
 
We eat blueberries or drink green tea to deal with those mild toxins, but what makes the RLIP76 protein so special is it helps rid the body of additional toxins that cause a great deal of damage to the cells and the body.

“We found a way where we can deliver additional protein, basically to deal with an oxidative stress situation,” said Bilby. “That occurs with something like radiation poisoning or other types of insults to the body.”

Inside the Terapio lab technicians allow bacteria to grow and produce the protein for them.

“Then we purify away everything we don’t want, and we’re essentially left with a pure batch of this active protein that’s identical to what you would find in your body,” said
Henry Hebel, the vice president of drug development for Terapio Corp.

Ever since September 11, the National Institute of Health has been charged with developing counter measures in the event of a radiation or chemical terror attack.

“Military or first responders may be entering an area where there is radioactivity. They would want protection before they went in,” said Bilby.

Protected from the radiation those military and first responders could then apply the protein to affected civilians.

“Knowing the number of years now that we as a community a treatment or vaccine for anthrax and to see that there are products so close to success for radiation is what is really exciting,” said Beth Leffel, the vice president of pre-clinical programs for Terapio Corp.

Once given FDA approval, the U.S. government is going to expect millions of doses, which Terapio says it can provide, however FDA approval is still two to four years away
. 

For more information on Terapio, go here.

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