Soligenix, Inc. secured the European Commission's orphan drug designation for its vaccine RiVax for ricin poisoning.
Ricin is a toxic protein found in the seeds of castor oil plants. The protein is lethal in some doses and forms.
The EC granted the designation under the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products.
The orphan drug designation is granted to treatments of life-threatening or chronically debilitating diseases that affect no more than 5 in 10,000 people in the European Union and have no satisfactory therapy available. The designation allows for a 10-year marketing exclusivity along with other benefits.
The Princeton, N.J.-based biotechnology company's RiVax also has the orphan drug designation in the U.S.
No effective treatments exist for ricin poisoning. "The successful development of an effective vaccine against ricin toxin may act as a deterrent against the actual use of ricin as a biological weapon and could be used to vaccinate military personnel and civilian emergency responders at high risk of potential exposure in the event of a biological attack," the company said in a statement.