Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has teamed up with an American biotech company to develop the first commercial vaccine for cytomegalovirus (CMV), which kills or disables tens of thousands of infants every year. Because CMV infection does not usually lead to detectable symptoms in otherwise healthy people, only a handful of researchers have endeavored to develop a CMV vaccine. In fact, the virus is one of the top causes of birth defects; a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that CMV costs the US as much as $4.4 billion per year. (See our 2006 article on linkurl:CMV vaccine;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36883/ development efforts). The vaccine candidate, AVX601, was created by scientists at North Carolina-based AlphaVax and has fared well in a linkurl:phase I clinical trial;http://www.alphavax.com/docs/news/news_25.pdf on healthy adults. AVX601 is a single-cycle particle vaccine that carries RNA encoding three antigens--phosphoprotein 65, immediate early protein I, and glycoprotein B--from the CMV virus, and the...
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