By Tracey Leong

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJZ) — The Maryland-based drug developer Emergent BioSolutions has received a multi-million dollar contract to help with the Zika health crisis.

Emergent received a $22 million federal order to develop an early-stage Zika vaccine, which could be ready for trials by early next year.

“Glad the government can rely on us sufficiently to come to us a second and third time to help them with a health crisis,” said Barbara Solow, Emergent BioSolutions.

The Gaithersburg-based company has been called on several times to help during a global virus outbreak, developing a number of vaccines — including anthrax and Ebola.

Now, Emergent is being utilized fro the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

“The steps early on for developing the vaccine remain the same, however, we do look to expedite the development as quickly as possible,” said Solow.

Countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands currently have Zika outbreaks. All cases in the United States are travel-related.

Zika is linked to microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with deformed heads and severe neurological damage. There is a concern that Zika could spread to the U.S., making the development of the Zika vaccine crucial and urgent.

The company is planning to hire additional staff to cover the 30-month contract for the Zika vaccine.

Emergent plans to move production from the Gaithersburg facility to a larger one in Baltimore when they begin producing the vaccine.

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