Novartis' cell-based flu vaccine wins European endorsement

Switzerland's Novartis has won the backing of Europe's drug watchdog--the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use--for the first cell-based flu vaccine, Optaflu. A formal decision by the European Commission is expected in the next two to three months and a U.S. application is expected next year. Optaflu is the most advanced cell-based vaccine, says Novartis, which puts an end to the lengthy and somewhat risky process that has traditionally relied on eggs to manufacture vaccines. This new process, which is being adopted by a range of vaccine developers, also makes it possible to devise vaccines that are better suited at protecting people from new strains of the flu--a key consideration as the world braces for a possible outbreak of avian flu.

"Optaflu contributes to meeting the growing demand for seasonal influenza vaccines, and this production technology offers the potential for quick scale-up of manufacturing in the event of an influenza pandemic," said Novartis vaccines head Joerg Reinhardt.

- see this release
- here's the AFX report on the Optaflu decision