UPDATE 1-Experimental bird flu vaccines show promise in early trials

Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:43am EST
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* Novartis, Novavax H7N9 vaccines give good immune response

* Companies using new technologies to accelerate production

* H7N9 flu emerged as human threat in China last winter (Updates with details on Novartis vaccine)

By Sharon Begley and Ben Hirschler

NEW YORK/LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The first human tests of experimental vaccines against a deadly strain of avian flu, using novel technology that could produce millions of doses very quickly, has produced protective antibodies in the vast majority of recipients.

Encouraging results in early-stage trials were announced for separate vaccines from Swiss drugmaker Novartis and Novavax, a biotech company based in Rockville, Maryland.

Details of the Novavax vaccine were published online in the New England Journal of Medicine late on Wednesday, while Novartis disclosed its positive findings on Thursday.

"These are very preliminary results, but it appears for the first time that we may have a vaccine that would work against an outbreak" of avian flu, said Robin Robinson, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, the federal agency in charge of developing countermeasures against public health emergencies.

Because other candidate vaccines against avian flu have failed, "this is a very important milestone", he said. "We have a promising vaccine where before we had none."   Continued...