NEWS SCAN: Anthrax vaccine contract, Salmonella in feed, flu vaccine stability, flu shots for adults, new TB test

Sep 17, 2010

Emergent wins $51 million US contract for anthrax vaccine work
Emergent BioSolutions Inc. of Rockville, Md., announced today it has won a $51 million federal contract to further develop a next-generation anthrax vaccine that uses recombinant anthrax protective antigen (rPA). The US Biomedical Research and Development Authority (BARDA) said the 2-year contract calls for Emergent, maker of the only US-licensed anthrax vaccine, to develop the final vaccine formulation and test its stability. The contract also allows BARDA to extend the project for up to 3 more years "to support scale-up and optimization for large-scale manufacturing and additional animal studies needed to apply for US Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccine." If the contract is extended to the full 5 years, the total value will be up to $186.6 million, BARDA said. Emergent's announcement said the vaccine contains rPA with an alum adjuvant and is based on pioneering research by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The company previously received two grants worth about $100 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop the vaccine. The company is also developing an adjuvanted formulation of the licensed vaccine, BioThrax, as well as treatments for anthrax. The US military uses BioThrax to protect soldiers deployed to high-risk regions.
Sep 17 BARDA news release
Sep 17 Emergent news release

Initial tests find no Salmonella in poultry feed ingredients
Early tests on chicken feed components have shown no evidence of Salmonella, suggesting that contamination detected earlier in finished feed at Wright County Egg, one of the Iowa companies implicated in a national Salmonella outbreak, may have occurred at the farm, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). FDA officials said the Salmonella Enteritidis source has not been identified and that the investigation is ongoing, the WSJ reported today. Some of the first positive findings in the case were tainted samples of feed produced at a Wright County Egg mill. The feed was used at Wright County Egg and distributed to Hillandale Farms, the other egg producer at the center of the national egg recall and Salmonella outbreak.
Sep 17 WSJ story

Seattle group to work on flu vaccine stability
The nonprofit Seattle-based medical group PATH has received a $5.2 million contract to develop pandemic influenza vaccines that are more stable and have longer shelf life. The funding comes from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which may award up to $4.2 million more to PATH to continue the work. Stable formulations of flu vaccines are seen as crucial in pandemic situations, since the ability to have a ready stockpile of potent vaccine at the beginning of a pandemic may help limit the spread of a virus. Said Dexiang Chen, a principle investigator in the PATH work, "A longer shelf life will decrease the turnover of vaccine stockpiles, reducing costs and boosting confidence in the distribution of fully potent vaccines at an outbreak's point of origin—a key strategy for containing the virus and preventing a potential pandemic." Dr. Kathleen Neuzil of PATH pointed out that expanded vaccine supplies will benefit people in both the United States and low-resource countries, expanding global pandemic preparedness. PATH and its partners in the project, Arecor Limited and Aridis Pharmaceuticals, hope to develop improved formulations for both live and subunit vaccines.
Sep 16 VaccineNewsDaily.com article
PATH news release

Persuading young adults to get flu shots seen as challenge
Healthy adults aged 19 to 49 years are for the first time this flu season (2010-11) among the groups recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to receive annual influenza vaccination. But, as stated by the authors of a study published in Vaccine, "Recommending universal vaccination is one thing; achieving it is another." Previously, ACIP recommended vaccination only for certain groups within this population, such as people with underlying health conditions. The researchers used representative survey data from the 2009-10 flu season to compare flu-related attitudes and behaviors in the newly targeted group with those in adults previously targeted. They found that those in the new group are less likely to believe that flu vaccines are safe (44% vs 63%), to have ever been vaccinated for flu before the 2009-10 season (36% vs 64%), to be influenced positively by a healthcare provider's recommendation (44% vs 52%), and to have visited a doctor's office during the past flu season (41% vs 69%). The authors conclude that getting the roughly 46 million adults in the new target group to seek out flu shots will be challenging and will "require new approaches to vaccine delivery both inside and outside of office-based settings."
Sep 15 Vaccine article abstract

UK says new TB test promises major improvement
The United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency (HPA) says its scientists have developed a new tuberculosis test that can identify TB in a sample in 1 hour, far faster than the gold-standard test, and with greater sensitivity than other rapid molecular tests. The test was described at the HPA's annual conference at the University of Warwick this week, the HPA said in a Sep 15 news release. "Rapid detection of the TB bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) will ensure quick treatment for patients and could dramatically reduce the incidence and consequences of TB in the UK and worldwide if practiced universally," the HPA said. It said the standard TB culture test can take up to 8 weeks, while other rapid tests currently available target a TB element that is sometimes present in very low amounts or is missing, which lowers test sensitivity. The new test, which uses polymerase chain reaction, will be further evaluated in trials in laboratories around the UK over the next year, the agency said. Earlier this month, an international team of researchers reported another new TB test, called Expert MTB-RIF, which they said can diagnose TB within 2 hours and simultaneously determine if it is resistant to rifampin.
Sep 16 UK HPA news release
Sep 2 CIDRAP report on other new flu test

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