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Swine flu windfall

Though a worrisome flu season is knocking at the Northern Hemisphere's door, the five biopharmaceutical companies awarded massive contracts by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for development and production of more than 195 million doses of swine flu vaccine can't really complain. The companies -- Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, Australian drug maker CSL, and Sanofi-Pasteur -- have been hard at work developing and testing vaccines since the H1N1 surfaced in the US, Mex

By | September 23, 2009

Though a worrisome flu season is knocking at the Northern Hemisphere's door, the five biopharmaceutical companies awarded massive contracts by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for development and production of more than 195 million doses of swine flu vaccine can't really complain. The companies -- Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, Australian drug maker CSL, and Sanofi-Pasteur -- have been hard at work developing and testing vaccines since the H1N1 surfaced in the US, Mexico, and Canada early this spring. Though drug companies don't tend to make production costs public, these five will likely make a pretty penny as swine flu hits in earnest this fall. Rachael David, a spokesperson for CSL, Australia, said in an email to __The Scientist__ that the company has contracts to supply 21 million doses of a swine flu vaccine to the Australian government and USD $180 million worth of bulk antigen to the US. "Analysts have predicted that [CSL's profits from sale of the vaccine and ingredients] will be between AUS $250 and $300 million [USD $218 - $262 million]," David wrote. The US government recently asked MedImmune, a Maryland-based subsidiary of drug maker AstraZeneca, to supply an additional 29 million doses of its live attenuated nasal spray swine flu vaccine, bringing the company's total contract to 40 million doses and more than $450 million. Karen Lancaster, a MedImmune spokesperson, told The Scientist that the cost per dose for the company's H1N1 vaccine is "a little less" than the cost per dose of the company's seasonal flu vaccine. In addition, Lancaster said, "We invested quite a lot in order to move up the production timeline" for the swine flu vaccine. Lancaster added that 3.5 million doses of the vaccine have been OK'd for release by the US Food and Drug Administration and they're ready to roll out the door when the government says go. Sanofi-Pasteur was also asked to provide an additional 27 million doses of bulk antigen on top of the more than 75 million doses of monovalent swine flu vaccine it has already agreed to provide the US government. "We are pleased to be able to support the U.S. government's pandemic response efforts through the production of additional doses of A (H1N1) vaccine," Wayne Pisano, Sanofi Pasteur's CEO, said in a linkurl:statement;http://198.73.159.214/sanofi-pasteur2/ImageServlet?imageCode=26378&siteCode=SP_CORP this week. Novartis scored a whopping $690 million order from the US government this summer. While these larger companies developed their vaccines using the tried and true chicken egg incubation method -- which can take up to six months -- smaller vaccine makers have had some success using alternative vaccine production technologies. For example, Maryland-based Novavax, uses virus-like particle (VLP) technology to manufacture vaccines, and they're experiencing some early success with their H1N1 shot. Less than one month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the sequence of the H1N1 strains' RNA in April, the company was able to develop swine flu VLPs, which can potentially be used to immunize people against infection. The company completed successful linkurl:animal trials;http://www.novavax.com/download/releases/H1N1Aug09.pdf of the VLP vaccine and is now planning human trials. This June, HHS poured $35 million into another biotech, Connecticut-based Protein Sciences, to produce a recombinant swine flu vaccine using insect viruses.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Journals speed up flu studies;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55686/
[11th May 2009]*linkurl:New HHS head takes on swine flu;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55668/
[29th April 2009]*linkurl:Can biotech tackle swine flu?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55666/
[27th April 2009]

Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 29

September 23, 2009

Despite the use of the term "windfall', vaccines continue to be one of the cheapiest and most cost-effective means of disease prevention (to say nothing of productivity loss prevention). it wasn't that many years ago that you couldn't even get companies to produce vaccines due to liability issues while annual sales of erectile disfunction drugs topped $3 billion per year. I'll take the windfalls any time.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 23, 2009

I've watched this unfold like the script to some Hollywood horror. Mass media communication has delivered a tool to whomever wishes to create hysteria to drive profits. Back ground stats for seasonal influenza produce approx 500,000 deaths per year globally. Swine flue will go down in history as the swindle flue- don't buy the hype. Granny new how to nurse us through the flue- it cost a garlic, a lemon, some honey and hot water. Get real people you have the curers you've just got blindsided by your reliance on the big 5 and their agendas. Fight the flue- beat the biotechs- you?ll be better for it. Mr Moon
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 26, 2009

no comment!
Avatar of: C. Mills

C. Mills

Posts: 1

October 2, 2009

Grant mentioned Novavax in the next to the last paragraph of his post. \n\nNovavax reported on one of their studies at the WHO conference in February of this year. (See report of study at www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/139352.php ,"Novavax Presents Favorable Results from Phase I/IIa Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Program at World Health Organization Conference," Article Date: 18 Feb 2009) The study used a VLP "virus-like particle" vaccine. Mark Livingston, a researcher, had once said that the technology was designed "to harness the immune system." \n\n On March 25, 2009, Novavax published in the online Journal of Virology "preclinical study results showing that an investigational H1N1 virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine based on the 1918 Spanish influenza strain protected against both the Spanish flu and a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain." (See www.novavax.com/download/releases/Pan%204_14_09%20FO.pdf ) Only mice and ferrets were used in the preclinical studies. \n\nOn March 31, 6 days after they published the results of their preclinical studies, Novavax announced that they had formed a joint venture with Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (Ahmedabad, India) to develop, manufacture and market vaccines, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic products in India. The deal included $11 million capital investment in Novavax. (See www.smartbrief.com/news/aaaa/industryPR-detail.jsp?id=6035F790-3374-49F5-ADE0-CDE9C21C939C ) Massive, unrelenting news coverage of the epidemic of swine flu began a few days later. Pundits said at that time that Novavax could produce a vaccine within 12 weeks. \n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

October 20, 2009

The suppliers of vaccines are producing a product valued by governments and at least some of the population for which they are compensated. The numbers provided have little value except for being large and thus are intended to outrage the public. News should be of value and not a litany of useless and inflammatory statements

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