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2022-8-8 7:16:20

ID Biomedical exec believes Canada will fund development of H5N1 vaccine
submited by kickingbird at Nov, 16, 2004 8:29 AM from CP

The chief executive of Canada´s pandemic influenza vaccine manufacturer says he believes the federal government will fund development and testing of a candidate vaccine for the avian flu strain known as H5N1.

And based on discussions at last week´s WHO pandemic vaccine summit, Dr. Tony Holler thinks other countries with flu vaccine makers within their borders will do likewise. "I think it would be very surprising if the government didn´t fund this, given what we know about pandemic preparedness," the CEO of Vancouver-based ID Biomedical said in an interview Monday.

"It looks like everybody´s now going to move towards these mock vaccines and these mock clinical trials."

The World Health Organization has been urging key countries and vaccine companies to start making, testing and licensing vaccine to protect against the H5N1 flu strain, which influenza experts fear is poised to spark the next pandemic.

A pandemic occurs when a novel strain of influenza emerges and acquires genetic properties that allow it to spread easily from person to person. It´s expected up to a third of the world´s population would fall ill and many millions would die.

Experts have been calling for vaccine trials, saying they would answer crucial questions about how much vaccine would be needed to protect an individual, whether each person would need two doses, and whether additives that boost the effect of vaccine or a novel injection method might allow smaller doses to be used so more people could be protected.

The United States is the only country so far to commission vaccine makers - Aventis Pasteur and Chiron Corp. - to make trial batches of an H5N1 vaccine. Japanese authorities have said they are considering having that country´s four flu vaccine makers embark on H5N1 trials.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is in negotiations with ID Biomedical to make, test and license a batch of H5N1 vaccine, but needs additional funding from government to green-light the project.

Federal officials won´t specific how much the work would cost, saying only it will be several millions. But Holler made it clear that the funding has to come from government, given there is little or no hope the vaccine could be sold.

"We can´t be using our shareholders´ money to be going into a highly speculative program," he said.

As it is, diverting resources to developing an H5N1 candidate vaccine will constitute a significant financial contribution on ID Biomedical´s part, Holler said. Staff who are working to develop vaccines to bring to market will have to put that work aside.

"The minute we start taking people off their programs . . . we are contributing big time. And that´s why the money has to come from another party."

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