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October 05, 2005

US agency steps up preparation efforts

"What this is reflecting is a very intense commitment and effort by the government to be prepared for a flu pandemic," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda.

"I think you will see over the next couple months an even greater effort," he said.

The health research institute last week tapped MedImmune Inc., a Gaithersburg biotechnology company, to develop and test nasal-spray vaccines for influenza, including the H5N1 virus strain, which has caused the bird-flu epidemic in Asia.

MedImmune already markets a nasal-spray flu vaccine. Terms of its agreement with the institute were not disclosed.

The institute, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), two weeks earlier awarded a $2.9 million grant to Vical Inc. of San Diego to develop a DNA-based vaccine to guard against naturally emerging forms of bird flu.

HHS also has invested in a bird-flu vaccine with a $100 million contract award last month to Sanofi Pasteur, the Swiftwater, Pa., vaccine business of French drug company Sanofi-Aventis Group. Sanofi Pasteur will make a vaccine that will protect against the H5N1 virus strain.

Dr. Fauci's institute since March has been testing another vaccine Sanofi Pasteur made from an inactive strain of avian influenza. Preliminary tests in August showed promise.

HHS last month bought 84,300 doses of zanamivir, an antiviral drug marketed as Relenza that treats bird flu, from British drug company GlaxoSmithKline for $2.8 million.

Full story in the Washington Times.

Posted by dymaxion at October 5, 2005 09:34 PM

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