Flu vaccines: Looking beyond eggs

Timeliness and risks to eggs in avian flu pandemic lead companies to seek other production methods

Ishani Ganguli
The global spread of avian flu is putting additional pressure on vaccine developers to rethink their traditional techniques, which rely heavily on eggs to incubate vaccine stocks: The lethality of avian flu in poultry makes it unlikely that there will be 4 billion embryonated eggs available-the number needed to protect the 1.2 billion people at high risk-in the case of a pandemic, according to Suryaprakash Sambhara at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cell culture is emerging as a viable and versatile alternative to eggs for churning out large quantities of vaccine. Last November, President Bush asked Congress for $2.8 billion to develop such technologies, which have been used for decades to manufacture vaccines for well-defined diseases like measles, and while the transition from eggs to culture represents a "considerable investment," vaccine industry leaders like Chiron, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are now jumping on board, said Richard Webby,...

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