Novartis receives swine flu virus

20th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss drug maker waits for the World Health Organisation's approval to produce a vaccine.

GENEVA - Swiss drug maker Novartis said Tuesday it received samples of the swine flu A(H1N1) virus and is awaiting the World Health Organisation's approval to begin producing a vaccine.

"We have received the virus and our researchers have started looking into modifying it so we can begin producing a vaccine," said a spokesman who added production would take three to four weeks.

"We are waiting for the green light from the WHO and the CDC (the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)," the spokesman said.

Novartis already produces a vaccine against seasonal flu but now must decide how to prioritise production demands for each vaccine, given different needs for the northern and southern hemispheres, he added.

The drug maker is in talks with several countries to provide them a vaccine, the spokesman said without specifying which countries.

He added that it will take about four months to develop a vaccine for swine flu, which killed some 70 people, with Novartis using both the faster "cell-based" and the traditional "egg-based" production methods.

The spokesman's comments come as UN chief Ban Ki-moon and WHO Director General Margaret Chan meet with drug lab representatives in Geneva Tuesday.

Novartis hopes the announcement will raise its share price after it posted in April a 14-percent drop in first quarter net profit, hurt by unfavourable currency movements and a major acquisition.

AFP / Expatica

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