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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round up of R&D news in brief

British-Indian vaccine deal

British biotech company Acambis has signed up Indiaís Bharat Biotech International Ltd to co-develop ChimeriVax-JE, Acambisí experimental vaccine against Japanese encephalitis (JE). Acambis hopes to initiate phase III trials for single-dose formulation by the end of 2005 and, pending regulatory approval, Bharat will perform end-stage processing, marketing and distribution in India and some surrounding markets. Acambis CEO, Gordon Cameron, said that such a vaccine is in high demand, as the Indian subcontinent is currently suffering from a JE epidemic affecting children.

Bird flu fears escalate in Asia

Newly reported outbreaks of bird flu in China and Japan have led national governments to employ increasingly thorough methods to control its spread. The Chinese agriculture ministry revealed that nearly 9,000 chickens and 369,000 domestic birds have died or been culled in an attempt to contain specific outbreaks. Japanís authorities plan to kill 180,000 birds, following the discovery of H5N2, a milder form of H5N1 bird flu, within 60 miles of the capital city Tokyo. Asian authorities have tightened up security regarding animal husbandry, and several pharma companies are in negotiations with Roche with the aim of boosting the production of antiviral drug Tamiflu. The Swiss company is struggling to keep up with demand for the drug and has already banned sales of the product to private doctors and pharmacies in Hong Kong, the US and Canada in a bid to focus its distribution.

Asthma combo may help significant few

A new injectable product, developed by Novartis, Genentech and Tanox, could prove to be a successful once- or twice-a-month therapy for a small but significant population of ëdifficult-to-controlí asthma sufferers. Xolair, which can be administered by nurses, works to block the action of the antibody that triggers the onset of allergic asthma. From clinical trials involving 4,300 patients from several different countries, it was suggested that combining Xolair therapy with other treatments could cut the number of emergency visits to hospital by 50 per cent, as well as improving patientsí quality of life. A lead investigator in the studies, Stephen Holgate of Southampton University, said: "We finally have a treatment option which can offer effective long-term control, even in very severe disease."

30th September 2008

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