Avian Flu (H5N1) Vaccine
The pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has announced that the company is close to developing a vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu in humans and that testing of the vaccine in humans could start within weeks. A vaccine may be administered in case of a flu pandemic.
The company recently invested $2 billion to expand the its flu vaccine manufacturing capacity and to increase the production of sought-after inhaled antitiviral drug, Relenza (zanamivir).
GSK is also increasing capacity to manufacture flu vaccine in North American through a proposed acquisition of ID Biomedical, a Canadian vaccine manufacturer.
GSK has also expanded its manufacturing plant in Dresden, Germany, and is preparing a plan to convert more of the company's manufacturing capabilities to pandemic flu vaccine production if needed.
GSK's prototype H5N1 vaccine that is currently in development uses an adjuvant which may boost the body's immune response to the vaccine and allow for lower doses to be used which would be essential for treating large populations in a pandemic. The prototype vaccine may also protect against additional strains (drifted from H5N1) that could arise. Clinical trials with the H5N1 flu strain are planned in 2006.
GlaxoSmithKline is also investing in development of new vaccine production technologies, and has recently acquired a vaccine plant in Marietta, PA, that will become a primary development and production center for tissue culture technology used to create the next generation of flu vaccines. Tissue culture technology could eliminate dependence on chicken eggs, thereby increasing the efficiency and speed of manufacturing, which would be critical in a pandemic. Tissue culture is therefore one of the most promising future technologies for the production of flu vaccines.
GSK's drug, Relenza is one of several antiviral drugs that could be considered for the treatment of influenza. Currently, pandemic concerns have increased demand for available supplies of Relenza, as well as the antiviaral drug, Tamiflu, which is a product of the pharmaceutical company, Roche.