Novartis takes lead position in frenzied race for new flu vax

Novartis appears to be the first of the major vaccine makers to get through the critical first phase of development for a new vaccine to guard against the new flu.

"Novartis has successfully completed the production of the first batch of influenza A (H1N1) vaccine, weeks ahead of expectations," the pharma giant announced in a statement. Clinical trials are now scheduled to begin next month with a license to begin large scale manufacturing expected in the autumn. And Novartis said that it appeared that the jab would be faster to make through the new cell-based approach to manufacturing rather than the traditional egg-based technology that has dominated the industry for decades.

But Novartis isn't the only developer racing to the clinic with a new vaccine. At least 20 vaccine makers are scrambling to satisfy the growing clamor for vaccine supplies, especially after the World Health Organization has now declared what most vaccine experts already concluded: Swine flu has established itself in more than one continent and will easily slip through borders around the world. The virus, while mild, has already appeared in 74 countries. And virtually overnight the vaccine industry has been presented with a multibillion-dollar market.

Sanofi-Aventis told Reuters, meanwhile, that it would be able to make the largest amount of swine flu vaccine in the shortest time frame, with the initial amount of bulk quantity available in about four months.

- see Novartis' release
- here's the report from Reuters
read the report from Dow Jones

ALSO: Australia's CSL is the smallest of the world's big six vaccine makers, but its researchers have been working around the clock to beat the heavyweights in the race to develop an effective swine flu vaccine. Report

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