Front Runners Emerge in Race for Swine Flu Vaccine

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Includes: BAX, NVS, SVA
by: Douglas Cress

Just days after the World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic, Fierce Biotech reports that two pharmaceutical companies are already racing to complete clinical trials of their H1N1 vaccines. Chinese company Sinovac Biotechnology (NASDAQ:SVA) says it can complete a clinical trial by the end of July, while Baxter International (NYSE:BAX) of Illinois says it has gone into full-scale production and can start filling orders as early as next month.

In order to produce enough doses of the vaccine, Sinovac and other flu manufacturers in China have collaborated to co-manufacture Panflu, Sinovac’s pandemic influenza vaccine with H1N1 virus seed. Baxter has received European Medicines Agency [EMEA] approval for a mock-up pandemic vaccine called CELVAPAN.

Meanwhile, Forbes reports that Novartis (NYSE:NVS) has emerged as another front runner. The Switzerland-based company says that it has produced its first batch of experimental vaccines to fight the H1N1 virus. Additionally, the company has discovered a new manufacturing technique that reportedly allows them to manufacture the vaccine more quickly. According to Novartis, cell-based manufacturing allows vaccine production to be initiated once a pandemic virus strain is identified without the need to adapt the virus strain to grow in eggs, as in traditional vaccine manufacturing. Novartis says the new technique cuts weeks off the time required to begin vaccine production.

Sinovac, Baxter, and Novartis face numerous competitors, each vying for a piece of the $1 billion the U.S. government has set aside for the development of a swine flu vaccine.

Disclosure: No positions