Companies Rush to Create Swine Flu Vaccines

vaccineThe World Health Organization is days away from declaring a swine flu pandemic, Bloomberg reports. The H1N1 virus has affected over 21,000 people in 69 countries, with 125 deaths to date. By Tuesday, swine flu had spread to all 50 states. With the disease still spreading around the globe, the U.S. government has earmarked $1 billion for the development of swine flu vaccines. Pharmaceutical giants Novartis, Sanofi Aventis, and GlaxoSmithKline snagged a large chunk of the cash, but opportunities exist for smaller drug manufacturers to attract the government’s attention–and at least two companies already have.

On Thursday, Novavax announced that it has created a swine flu vaccine that the government has agreed to test. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases signed an agreement with the Rockville, MD, company to evaluate the vaccine. Instead of using the actual virus, the Novavax vaccine uses virus-like particles to stimulate antibody production. The company says it can produce hundreds of thousands of doses at its manufacturing plant. Novavax stock shot up 50 percent in the wake of Thursday’s announcement. Another Maryland-based company, MedImmune of Gaithersburg, has signed a $90 million contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a nasal spray vaccine for swine flu. The company  is evaluating the potential of several promising vaccine candidates.

Other companies are developing swine flu vaccines:

Cel-Sci of Baltimore saw its stock price increase following the announcement of positive results in a trial of its vaccine technology. A study at the University of Hawaii found that vaccines using Cel-Sci’s LEAPS technology elicited protective immune responses that could potentially be used to treat swine flu. The technology has yet to be tested on humans.

Vaxart of San Francisco announced last month that it has begun animal testing on an oral vaccine for swine flu.

San Diego-based Vical recently raised $20 million for its vaccine programs. The company plans to ready its manufacturing capabilities to make enough swine flu vaccine for a clinical trial using U.S. Navy personnel.

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