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EMERYVILLE, Calif. -- Chiron Corporation announced that it has won a further 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 a potential pandemic-like strain of influenza. This H9N2 strain, along with the H5N1 avian strain that circulated in Asia last winter, is one of many subtypes of influenza virus that does not usually infect humans and to which people have no immunity. Consequently, if it were to transmit from person to person, the virus could result in a global outbreak of influenza, commonly called a pandemic.
"This contract builds on the collaboration we began in May with the NIAID to produce an H5N1 avian influenza vaccine for clinical testing. Pandemic influenza has the potential to devastate human health right across the world, and therefore this type of public-private partnership is crucial to further our pandemic preparedness," said John Lambert, president of Chiron Vaccines. "As one of the world's leading influenza vaccine manufacturers, Chiron has spent a number of years researching potential pandemic vaccines. During the last few years, we have produced a vaccine designed to protect against a pandemic-like strain of avian influenza that was successful in subsequent clinical testing. Our work with the NIAID on both this H9N2 vaccine and previously on the H5N1 strain will further build on this experience, enhancing the scientific community's ability to protect humanity against the prospect of pandemic influenza."
Under the terms of the contract, Chiron will produce up to 40,000 doses of the investigational H9N2 vaccine. NIAID will conduct clinical studies to explore the safety profile and immunogenicity of a range of different doses. Chiron will manufacture the vaccine at its production facilities in Siena and Rosia, Italy.
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 H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in Southeast Asia last winter resulted in a number of human fatalities and more than 100 million bird deaths either from the disease or the subsequent cull.
Source: Chiron Corporation