Novartis vax against MenB shows benefits in infant study

Novartis appears to have made more progress in the battle against meningitis B. The Swiss drug giant says that its experimental vaccine Bexsero (a.k.a. 4CMenB) could protect against about 80 percent of MenB strains that were found in Europe.

The latest data on the vaccine come from a pivotal trial involving 1,800 infants that show "robust" immune responses in most patients who were given Bexsero alone or in addition to other vaccines. These data show that the vaccine could be used in the first year of life, when babies' young immune systems put them at the greatest risk of MenB infection, according to Novartis.

There are currently no effective vaccines against MenB, which can be deadly or leave survivors with permanent brain damage, learning disabilities, hearing loss and limb loss. The vaccine was developed using a reverse vaccinology method that decoded the DNA of MenB to make the shot more potent. More than 8,000 patients--ranging from infants to adults--have been enrolled in studies of the vaccine. While the vaccine still faces regulatory scrutiny and additional testing, advocates are hopeful that the European Medicines Agency could clear Bexsero by Christmas, the Telegraph reports.

"MenB disease poses a significant burden to people around the world, particularly infants, the population at greatest risk for the disease," Andrin Oswald, chief of Novartis' vaccines and diagnostics division, said in a statement. "The data show that Bexsero, our innovative multicomponent MenB vaccine, holds great promise in providing a solution to a major public health concern that can have a devastating impact on vulnerable populations."

"This data is a very positive step in the fight to eradicate meningitis B, which is the biggest killer of all types of meningitis in the UK," Steve Dayman, the chief executive of Meningitis UK, said, as quoted by the Telegraph. "This vaccine is the first of its kind and has the potential to save thousands of lives."

- here's the Novartis release
- check out the Telegraph's report
- see the RTTNews article