The US Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $1 billion in contracts to five vaccine manufacturers to help develop a stockpile of effective bird flu vaccine.
GlaxoSmithKline, the British drugmaker, received a $275 million contract, while Novartis, the Swiss drugmaker, received $221 million, and MedImmune, a Maryland-based vaccine maker, received $170 million, said the HHS.
Solvay Pharmaceuticals received the largest contract, $299 million, with part of the money going towards building a new US-based vaccine plant, and SynPort Vaccine got the smallest, $41 million. The money from the five-year contracts will be used to develop vaccines in cell culture, a faster process than the decades-old method of growing the vaccines in chicken eggs.
Vaccine companies also are working on developing DNA-based vaccines, done by inserting the genes of the flu into a harmless virus. A vaccine made this way would protect against all types of influenza and is seen as “the holy grail” of vaccine development, because it could eliminate the need for annual flu shots.