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Scientists around the world are accelerating their efforts to develop a vaccine against the H1N1 influenza virus as rapidly as possible, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). The need for such a vaccine received a strong impetus from the World Health Organization, which has issued a Phase 5 pandemic alert, a strong signal that the WHO believes a pandemic is imminent, according to the June 1 issue of GEN.
"It can take five or six months to come up with an entirely novel influenza vaccine," says John Sterling, editor-in-chief of GEN. "There is a great deal of hope that biotech and pharma companies might be able to have something ready sooner."
One company, Replikins, actually predicted over a year ago that significant outbreaks of the H1N1 flu virus would occur within six to 12 months. The predictions were based on correlations of flu virus specimens and PubMed documentation of major outbreaks during the past 90 years, focusing on concentrations of, and spacings between, replikins—the lysine and histidine residues in the hemagglutinin (HA) unit genetic sequences of the eight major genes in the influenza virus. Replikins' officials say the company's PanFLu™ vaccine is ready for clinical trials.
Novavax plans to create a virus-like particle-based (VLP) vaccine against the H1N1 strain, which obviates the need for a live virus seed for manufacturing. The VLPs contain the proteins that make the virus' outer shell and the surface proteins, without the RNA required for replication. Other H1N1 vaccine programs covered in the GEN article include those at Medicago, VaxInnate, NanoBio, Vaxart, Pulmatrix and PurdueUniversity.