Nobel Prize winner to transform cancer bug to flu vaccine

Australian scientist Barry Marshall continues to make hay with the cancer-making stomach bacterium that won him a Nobel Prize. He's planning to use the bug in a drinkable flu vaccine that's slated to begin trials next year.

Marshall, founder of Ondek, shows that his business acumen rivals his scientific expertise. "We're focusing on flu because we think that would be attractive to investors," he says in a Bloomberg report. He and J. Robin Warren won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine with for their discovery of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium and its role in gastritis and peptic-ulcer disease.

Ondek plans to modify the bacterium, which colonizes the stomach and can lead to cancer. Researchers will replace cancer-causing genes with influenza genes to stimulate an immune response. Marshall envisions a freeze-dried powder or a capsule, which would neatly side-step cold-chain requirements and injection side effects.

A trial of at least 30 people in the U.S. is planned for next year, with results expected by mid-2013. "In Australia, people are more comfortable with mining investments and will put massive amounts of money into holes in the ground," Marshall said, according to Bloomberg. Few Australian investors have had "a good experience in biotechnology and can see that it's a similar type of risk-benefit ratio."

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