SIGA gets nod for $2.8B antiviral contract, shares rocket up

SIGA Technologies says it has been selected to deliver a smallpox antiviral drug to the nation's biodefense stockpile, landing a contract which is worth $500 million at the base level and zooms all the way up to $2.8 billion if HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority picks up all the options. The agency intends to file the contract, says SIGA, once it resolves a protest from Chimerix, which is protesting its unsuccessful bid for the rich contract covering 1.7 million courses of the antiviral. SIGA shares skyrocketed 46 percent on the news.

Chimerix's protest, according to SIGA, revolves around SIGA's "status" with the Small Business Administration. Back in the spring of 2009, HHS had designated the contract as a small-business set aside, spurring Chimerix's protest against the company.

 "We are very proud that HHS has selected our groundbreaking drug, ST-246, for this important acquisition and believe that SIGA appropriately qualified as a small business concern for this procurement," said SIGA CEO Dr. Eric Rose.

The contract represents just the latest in a string of new contracts issued by BARDA. Stung by harsh criticism over the slow pace of vaccine development during the swine flu pandemic, HHS has restructured BARDA and armed it with plenty of cash to invest in new technologies and therapeutics to fight the flu. At one point, lawmakers had been planning to scuttle BARDA, but that threat has evidently passed.

- here's the Siga release