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Swine flu vaccine ’in months’: Australian researchers

A swine flu vaccine developed using caterpillar cells will be ready in just a few months if clinical trials can be fast-tracked, Australian researchers said on Monday.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2009 13:29 IST

A swine flu vaccine developed using caterpillar cells will be ready in just a few months if clinical trials can be fast-tracked, Australian researchers said on Monday.

As the number of cases in the worst-hit Asia-Pacific nation neared 4,000, University of Queensland researchers said they had produced Australia’s first batch of the US-developed FluBlok.

Researcher Anton Middelberg said the company behind the vaccine -- Connecticut-based Protein Sciences Corporation -- planned to run clinical human trials in the United States, Mexico and Australia.

“We are expecting Australia will be one of the first to benefit from this new technology,” professor Middelberg said.
“It all depends on the regulatory process but I’d say we are months away from a swine flu vaccine,” he added.

Under an agreement between the Australian and US researchers, Protein Sciences sent the genetic material needed to create FluBlok to the University of Queensland and a batch of the vaccine was then produced there.

While the vaccine is not yet registered for use in Australia, Middelberg said he hoped clinical trials could be carried out as quickly as possible.

Protein Sciences said in a statement last week that the vaccine would be ready for trials by mid-July.

The vaccine is made by infecting caterpillar cells, a revolutionary approach which the company says means it can be manufactured faster than traditional methods using chicken or mammal eggs.

Swine flu has hit 3,912 people in Australia, which has recorded six deaths related to the A(H1N1) virus. The disease has infected nearly 60,000 worldwide and killed 263, according to the World Health Organisation.