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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round up of R&D news in brief

Speedier bird flu vaccine

Scientists say they have discovered a faster way to make a vaccine for avian flu, should a mutated form ever be able to spread among humans. In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Tokyo and University of Wisconsin-Madison said they could cut the time to develop and manufacturer a vaccine by using an improved "reverse genetics" technique. The method involves speeding up the process that makes disarmed viruses that do not make a person ill but instead prepare the human immune system to recognise and attack the wild pandemic virus.

Gates gives malaria vaccine boost

A project which is conducting trials of GlaxoSmithKlineís malaria vaccine in Mozambique has received a £60.4m ($107.6m) cash injection from Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates. Once trials involving more than 10,000 children are completed, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) hopes to introduce a vaccine into Africaís immunisation programme by around 2011, said the projectís director Dr Melinda Moree. The donation is part of a wider £145m ($258.3m) gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to malaria research worldwide.

Europe clamps down on herbal medicines

Companies which produce herbal medicines must now have their drugs approved by an independent agency after the introduction of a new EU directive. The law is designed to ensure that people buying the products will have a guarantee of their safety and efficacy. Before new remedies can be registered and sold, information about how they should be used must also be approved. Last month, a report written by economist Christopher Smallwood and commissioned by the Prince of Wales said that complementary therapies, including herbal medicines, should be used more frequently by the NHS.

EMEA legalisation red tape ends

European Medicines Agency (EMEA) certificates for drugs in the UK market given marketing authorisations through the centralised procedure no longer have to be legalised by the European Commission. The EMEA issues certificates for products that have either gone or are waiting to go through the centralised procedure, allowing health authorities in countries outside the European Union to ascertain their status within the EU while they are evaluating them for use within their own country. EC legalisation was required as health authorities outside the EU were unfamiliar with the work of the agency. The EMEA said that as it had been in operation for more than 10 years, legalisation of certificates by the Commission was considered "superfluous".

30th September 2008

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