Further contracts awarded for weakened smallpox vaccine

Oct 4, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Two vaccine companies have received contracts estimated at about $200 million to produce a modified smallpox vaccine for the US government.

Acambis, based in Cambridge, UK, and Cambridge, Mass., and Denmark's Bavarian Nordic both won contracts on Sep 30 to continue research on a smallpox vaccine made with a modified version of the currently used live vaccinia (Dryvax) vaccine, news services reported.

Roughly 10% to 15% of the US population can't take Dryvax, including those with weakened immune systems, skin conditions such as eczema, and senior citizens, according to news services.

The modified vaccine, called modified vaccinia Ankara, or MVA, won't replicate within cells as the current live virus does, so it shouldn't pose as much risk as the current vaccine, according published reports.

Both companies already had funding to pursue work on the vaccine (see story link below). Acambis's new contract is estimated in a Wall Street Journal story to be worth up to $131 million. The company is working on MVA with a unit of Baxter International.

Bavarian Nordic's new contract is valued at about $100 million. That contract is for Imvamune vaccine, which Bavarian Nordic is developing with GlaxoSmithKline.

The recent contracts allow for each company to produce about 500,000 doses of the vaccines and conduct human safety tests, a National Institutes of Health spokesman told the Associated Press. The US government could order 2.5 million additional doses from each supplier.

See also:

Feb 25, 2003, CIDRAP News story on earlier awards to Acambis and Bavarian Nordic for MVA
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/smallpox/news/safevax.html

Mar 10, 2004 CIDRAP News story on effectiveness of MVA in animal studies
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/smallpox/news/mar1004mva.html

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