New leader in race for human bird flu vaccine

27-07-2006 | |

GlaxoSmithKline, Europe’s largest pharmaceutical group, has achieved the most promising results so far in experiments for a human vaccine for avian flu.

The company claimed that it could have an effective human vaccine to combat the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus by next year.

In the company’s trials, more than 80 percent of the 400 healthy adult subjects given the vaccine demonstrated a strong immunity to the effects of  H5N1. This level of protection meets or exceeds target criteria set by regulatory agencies for registration of influenza vaccines.

GlaxoSmithKline‘s CEO JP Garnier said: “These excellent clinical trial results represent a significant breakthrough in the development of our pandemic flu vaccine. This is the first time such a low dose of H5N1 antigen has been able to stimulate this level of strong immune response.

There is still a lot more work to be done with this programme, but this validation of our approach provides us with the confidence to continue developing the vaccine, including assessment of its ability to offer cross-protection to variants of the H5N1 strain. All being well, we expect to make regulatory filings for the vaccine in the coming months.”

Glaxo, like rivals Sanofi and Novartis, has been racing to develop an effective vaccine as a treatment for humans. Central to their efforts has been producing the maximum number of shots of a vaccine with the minimum amount of antigen.

The first company to produce a treatment available commercially stands to generate big profits because of the interest among governments in stockpiling H5N1 vaccines.