Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics Inc. has signed a manufacturing agreement for one of its drug candidates that could become a vaccine used to combat biological warfare.

The company, which is developing anti-infective drug candidates, issued a statement Tuesday saying it has signed a partnership with Alachua, Fla.-based Ology Bioservices to manufacture Appili’s drug candidate ATI-1701.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently awarded Ology US$6.3 million (C$8.3 million) to develop and manufacture the drug. Appili said this work would help to provide vaccine supply for future development of its ATI-1701 program.

ATI-1701 is being developed as a vaccine for tularemia, a rare infectious disease that attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs. It is caused by the bacterium F. tularensis, which the U.S. National Institutes of Health defines as a Category A pathogen (an organism that poses the highest risk to national security and public health).

The statement said F. tularensis is 1,000 times more infectious than anthrax, so experts consider the aerosolized form to have a high potential use in a bioterrorist attack.  Several countries may already have operational weapons programs leveraging this pathogen, making the need for a vaccine exceedingly important, it said.

“Tularemia is a potentially deadly biological weapon for which there is no approved vaccine,” said Appili CEO Armand Balboni in the statement. “ATI-1701 has the potential to address this critical biodefense gap and we are eager to start the next stage of its development.”

Appili specializes in bringing to market drugs that prevent infectious diseases and is working on three other candidates as well as ATI-1701.

After raising a total of $27 million in two private placements on the TSX Venture exchange earlier this year, Appili announced last month that it was moving to the main board of the Toronto Stock Exchange.