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First step made in development of swine flu vaccine

Researchers successfully sequence full genetic code of the virus

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 08 May 2009

The first step towards the development of a vaccine against swine flu has been made with researchers at the Health Protection Agency successfully sequencing the full genetic code of the virus. 

The researchers hope that European manufacturers will be able to take delivery of candidate vaccine prototypes in the coming months so preliminary steps to mass vaccine production can begin.

The HPA's National Institute of Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) is the only centre in the UK and one of only a handful around the world developing vaccine prototypes for the European vaccine manufacturers.

Professor Maria Zambon, Director of the Health Protection Agency's Centre for Infections, said: "The pure sample of virus that we have isolated, together with its genetic fingerprint, will be important resources as scientific organisations join forces on the development of an effective vaccine.”

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "A significant step towards protecting the world's health against swine flu has been taken.

"The speed with which vaccine prototypes can be created to combat potential pandemics is testimony to the dedication and world-class expertise of Health Protection Agency researchers. We now look to the vaccine industry to produce the required quantities of vaccine as quickly as possible."

In July 2007, the Government signed advanced supply agreements, which will enable the UK to purchase up to 132 million doses of pandemic specific vaccine, when it becomes available. Under these contracts, GSK and Baxter are committed to supplying a pandemic influenza vaccine as soon as the pandemic strain is identified and made available by the World Health Organization.

Pandemic specific vaccines take 4-6 months to develop after a pandemic virus has been identified and it is likely to take over a year to deliver all of the vaccine.

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