If biotechnology as a science and as an industry has "grown up" over the past 20 years, the search for a vaccine against the Streptococcus A bacterium may be described as "coming of age."

The bacterium presents a serious challenge. In children, it infects the mouth, nose, and throat and can cause the painful inflammation of strep throat. But it can have more dire consequences--if an infected child doesn't receive adequate antibiotic treatment, the infection could find its way into the bloodstream. The result is an antibody response that goes beyond the mouth and nose, with antibodies against Streptococcus A circulating in the bloodstream. At least some of those antibodies are cross-reactive to human tissue in the heart, kidneys, and brain, and they may cause heart damage known as acute rheumatic fever.

Milan Blake, senior director of molecular biology and protein chemistry at North American Vaccines, is pictured with his...

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