April 30, 2009 / 7:41 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Novartis says adjuvant promising in flu vaccine

* To use data to develop vaccine against swine flu outbreak

* pre-pandemic bird flu vaccine shows good results

* Adjuvanted Aflunov shows cross-protective response

(Adds details, background)

ZURICH, April 30 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG NOVN.VX will use data from a study on its pre-pandemic bird flu vaccine Aflunov and adjuvant MF59 to help develop a vaccine against the swine flu virus, it said on Thursday.

Adjuvants are additives that help boost the effectiveness of vaccines.

A study showed that when MF59 was added to Aflunov it can provide a broadly cross-reactive immune response covering all known H5N1 antigenic variants, even when that booster dose is administered six years after the initial dose.

Manufacturers have started to take the first preparatory steps in developing a vaccine against the H1N1 swine flu virus that is being linked to the deaths of as many as 176 people in Mexico. Ten countries have reported cases of the H1N1 strain. [ID:nLS423019] [ID:nLU51845]

“These data reinforce the potentially broad applicability of the MF59 adjuvant and the role it can play in pandemic preparedness efforts around the world,” said Andrin Oswald, chief executive of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

“We will use these new insights, as well as our strong leadership position in cell based flu manufacturing, as part of our efforts to develop a vaccine against the current swine flu outbreak,” Oswald said.

By 0718 GMT, shares in the group had risen 1.3 percent to 43.28, largely in line with the European pharmaceuticals sector .SXDP.

Novartis said earlier this week it had received the genetic code of the new virus strain, meaning that it could start work on evaluating production and it hoped to get the actual virus in its laboratories in the near future.

The group also said on Thursday a Phase II study had shown that Aflunov provided a protective immune response in children from 6 months to 17 years, making it the first and only pre-pandemic avian vaccine with a good safety profile and which is effective in building an immune response as early as 6 months. (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Hans Peters) (For full coverage of the flu outbreak, click [nFLU])

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