June 4, 2009

Swine flu vaccine efforts accelerated

Scientists worldwide are accelerating their efforts to develop a vaccine against the H1N1 influenza virus, a U.S. trade publication in biotechnology.

It can take five or six months to come up with an entirely novel influenza vaccine, John Sterling, editor in chief of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, said in a statement.

There is a great deal of hope that biotech and pharma companies might be able to have something ready sooner.

One company, Replikins, predicted more than a year ago that significant outbreaks of the H1N1, or so-called swine flu, virus would occur within six to 12 months, Sterling said.

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 unit, found on the surface of the influenza viruses -- of the eight major genes in the influenza virus.

Replikins' officials have said the company's PanFLu vaccine is ready for clinical trials.

The biotechnology company Novavax plans to create a virus-like particle-based vaccine against the H1N1 strain, which obviates the need for a live virus seed for manufacturing.

The virus-like particle-based vaccine contains the proteins that make the virus' outer shell and the surface proteins, without the RNA required for replication, the publication said.