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Acambis to supply smallpox vaccine to US CDC

Acambis has been awarded a $425m vaccination contract by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide the Department of Defence with doses of its smallpox jab.

Acambis has been awarded a $425m vaccination contract by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide the Department of Defence with doses of its smallpox jab.

The new contract means Acambis will maintain a warm-manufacturing capability in the US for a ten-year period. It will also be expected to produce nine million doses of ACAM2000, a smallpox vaccination

Ian Garland, chief executive officer of Acambis, said: "We are delighted to be awarded this contract by the CDC, which marks the achievement of one of Acambis's major corporate goals."

Until the announcement of the contract on April 23, ACAM2000 was manufactured by third party contractors and outside the US. The new deal means production of the drug will take place on US soil at facilities in Canton, Massachusetts and Rockville, Maryland.

The CDC will now supply ACAM2000 to the US Department of Defence for routine vaccination of military, emergency-essential, and civilian government employees.

"It is highly satisfying to know that, following eight years collaboration with the CDC to develop ACAM2000, this core part of the US government's defence against smallpox has been secured by Acambis for the long term," Garland concluded.

Smallpox, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls "one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity", originated over 3,000 years ago in either India or Egypt. When the WHO launched a global eradication plan in 1967, smallpox threatened 60 per cent of the world's population and killed one in four patients. It also caused significant scarring and permanent blindness in survivors and is resistant to all forms of treatment.

The last natural case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977, and the disease eradication programme, instigated by the WHO, was certified as successful after intense verification. In 1980 the World Health Assembly concurred that smallpox had been eradicated.

During the early 1990s, smallpox was developed as a biological weapon. In recent years, government agencies in both the UK and America have been taking steps to assess readiness and reaction to a biological attack on civilian populations. Large-scale exercises took place in central London that saw members of the emergency services involved in simulated release of biological weapons.

25th April 2008

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