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$1.3 million grant for avian flu vaccine

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to produce an avian flu vaccine that could be used in Phase I and Phase II human clinical trials.

During testing, the vaccine, which contains critical components of the deadly H5N1 virus but does not cause disease, completely protected mice and chickens from infection after exposure to the wild-type virus.
According to Dr Andrea Gambotto, lead investigator on the project, the funding will allow his group to begin immediate scale-up of vaccine production.
"It will take us a few weeks to get our facility ready. However, we hope to begin vaccine production by early fall," he said.
Dr Gambotto and his co-workers created their vaccine by genetically engineering a common cold virus, called adenovirus, to express either all or parts of an avian influenza protein called hemagglutinin (HA) on its surface. Found on the surface of all influenza viruses, HA allows the virus to attach to and infect a cell, a critical step in the influenza virus' ability to cause illness and death.
Because this vaccine contains a live virus, the University of Pittsburgh investigators believe it may be more effective in stimulating a therapeutic immune response than avian flu vaccines prepared by traditional methods. Indeed, traditionally developed flu vaccines in which the virus is grown in fertilised chicken eggs and then killed by heat or chemicals, take a minimum of four to six months to make and typically produce an immune response against only one strain of the virus. If the H5N1 virus mutates, more traditional vaccines may have limited effectiveness in a pandemic outbreak.

Editor WorldPoultry

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