Indonesia-Japan Venture Launches Bird Flu Vaccine

By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA — An Indonesia-Japan venture said on Thursday it has created what it believes is a more effective bird flu vaccine for poultry and hopes to quickly boost production to help nations fight the deadly H5N1 flu strain.

PT. IPB Shigeta said it is using a new production technique called reverse genetics in which an inactivated, genetically modified form of the H5N1 virus is grown in special chicken eggs.

The inactivated virus is then harvested for production of the vaccine.

“This is the first in the world. It is non-lethal and safe to be produced,” said Kamaluddin Zarkasie, director of the venture, told reporters.

Since 2004, Japanese drugmaker Shigeta Animal Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Indonesia’s government-backed Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) have worked together to create the vaccine, called bird CLOSE 5.1.

Bird flu has killed 96 people since 2003 and led to the deaths through infection or culling of more than 200 million poultry in many countries.

Several nations, including China, Vietnam and France, are vaccinating poultry but birds can still be virus carriers without showing symptoms.

The joint venture, in a statement, said most current bird flu vaccines for poultry use the H5N2 strain as the seed virus but that meant they were not completely effective because of the genetic differences between H5N1 and the less pathogenic


“The vaccine will be highly effective against currently circulating highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses because of the closeness of the antigenic match between the vaccine strain and the epidemic viruses,” the statement said.

There are several sub-strains of H5N1 that have been detected.

Toyama-based Shigeta, which has an 80 percent stake in the venture, said private and government companies around Asia have already requested 517 million doses of the vaccine.

The venture has built a plant in the West Java city of Bogor and plans two bigger factories in the same area.

Zarkasie said the vaccine would hit the market next month.

Shigeta forecast 2006 vaccine sales could reach 8.5 billion yen ($72.6 million).

The venture might also build vaccine factories in Romania and Nigeria, Zarkasie said.

In Indonesia, H5N1 has affected birds in about two-thirds of the country’s provinces and killed 20 people.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate and spread easily from person to person, triggering a pandemic that could kill millions and cripple economies.

Pressure is growing on vaccine makers to create a treatment that will immunize humans and reverse genetics is one of the production methods being tested.

($1 = 117 yen)

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