UPDATE 1-Crucell starts work on RSV vaccine
* Vaccine development part of Johnson & Johnson deal
* RSV one of three innovation programmes in J&J partnership
AMSTERDAM, June 24 (Reuters) - Dutch biotech Crucell CRCL.AS CRXL.O said on Thursday it would start the development of a universal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine as part of its collaboration with Johnson & Johnson.
Crucell sold an 18 percent stake to U.S. diversified health care company J&J (JNJ.N) for 302 million euros last September as part of a flu vaccine development deal and in February said it will boost R&D funding by more than a third.
On Thursday, the company said it would start a discovery programme aimed at the development of an RSV vaccine to prevent severe infections with the most common RSV strains in infants and the elderly.
"We expect that an RSV vaccine will be the next frontier in children's vaccines for inclusion in the routine immunisation of newborns," Chief Executive Ronald Brus said in a statement.
While the partnership with J&J focuses on the development of and commercialisation of a universal influenza vaccine, it also included innovation programmes directed against three other disease targets.
The universal RSV vaccine has now been selected as one of the innovation programmes, while selection of the other two targets is ongoing, Crucell said.
Crucell said RSV is the most important cause of viral lower respiratory illness in infants and children and that RSV-induced disease is the last of the major paediatric diseases for which no preventive vaccine is available. (Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by David Cowell)
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