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EMERYVILLE, Calif. -- Chiron Corporation today announced that it has won a contract from the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the
U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), to produce an investigational
vaccine designed to protect against the strain of avian influenza that
recently circulated in China and the Far East. The H5N1 influenza strain
resulted in more than 20 human deaths and a subsequent cull of poultry
throughout the region in an effort to prevent a potential worldwide influenza
"The avian influenza outbreaks last winter highlight the very real threat
posed by pandemic influenza," said John Lambert, president of Chiron Vaccines.
"As a leading influenza vaccine manufacturer, Chiron has produced vaccines
designed to protect against other types of avian influenza, including the
strain that resulted in several deaths in Hong Kong in 1997. Subsequent
clinical testing demonstrated that it should be possible to protect against
this lethal Hong Kong strain. Our current work with the NIAID builds on this
experience, further developing our ability to produce vaccines with the
potential to protect society against a pandemic."
Under the terms of the contract, Chiron will produce 8,000 doses of the
investigational H5N1 vaccine for the NIAID, which will conduct clinical
studies exploring the safety profile and immunogenicity of two different
doses. Chiron will produce the vaccine at its Liverpool manufacturing
facility, using the production process used for its marketed influenza
vaccine, Fluvirin. The seed virus for preparation of the vaccine will be
produced using reverse genetics and will be provided to Chiron via the usual
route for commercial products.
"While we do not know when, we do know we will experience another
pandemic, and it will have the potential to kill a great number of people,"
said Walter A. Orenstein, MD, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center
in Atlanta. "Detailed planning is essential to ensure we are ready
to face such a threat, and clinical studies with this H5N1 vaccine are
critical in furthering our understanding of how to protect against it. This
type of public-private partnership between government and industry is crucial
to advancing our pandemic preparedness capabilities."
Pandemic influenza occurred three times in the last century, with the
Spanish flu of 1918-19 killing between 20 million and 50 million people.
Pandemic influenza occurs when a new virus emerges to which people do not have
immunity, causing a worldwide outbreak of disease. Avian influenza, or "bird
flu," does not normally infect humans, but there have been several examples in
recent years of transmission to people, leading to fears of a strain with the
potential to result in a pandemic. The World Health Organization estimates
that the recent avian influenza outbreak in Southeast Asia resulted in 34
human cases, with 23 fatalities, and more than 100 million bird deaths either
from the disease or the subsequent cull.
Source: Chiron Corporation