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News 319 views update:Jul 12, 2006

First trials for DNA-based avian flu vaccine

Plans for clinical trials to test the viability of a vaccine to protect against an avian flu pandemic have been submitted to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

If successful, UK company PowderMed, which develops vaccines for viral diseases and cancers, will conduct their H5N1 vaccine trials at a clinical research unit in London.


They would be the first human trials to examine the ability of a vaccine based upon the Vietnam H5N1 avian influenza strain to protect against a potential pandemic.


Unlike conventional vaccines, which use weakened strains or fragments of the harmful virus, the test vaccine uses strands of DNA that can be made quickly and cheaply.


PowderMed's vaccine is a needle-free injection device which fires microscopic gold particles coated with DNA - encoding genes specific to the flu strain - at supersonic speed into the immune cells of the skin.


Previous trials conducted in the US using bird flu strains in a vaccine had 100 per cent protection in various experimental models.


A vaccine against avian flu could significantly bolster efforts to limit the infection's spread if a pandemic strain emerges, by adding to government stockpiles of the anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.


Dr Beadle, PowderMed's chief medical officer, said that the vaccine could play "a very important role" in the event of a future avian flu pandemic.


PowderMed joins a number of companies in the race to develop an effective low-cost avian influenza vaccine.

Editor WorldPoultry

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