Novartis encouraged by typhoid vaccine progress

Novartis ($NVS) has talked up the prospects of its typhoid vaccine candidate after completing Phase II safety studies. A wider rollout is now being considered as Novartis pushes to develop a vaccine to eliminate a disease that still kills 200,000 people a year.

The candidate is a product of the Novartis Vaccines Institute for Global Health that the Swiss drugmaker set up in 2008 in Siena, Italy. Within a year of opening, the Siena site secured funding from the Wellcome Trust to bring a typhoid vaccine, Vi-CRM197, to the clinic. Now, with Phase II safety trials of the vaccine complete, Novartis is looking to the next stage of development.

"We've had quite good success so far in early trials and we hope to be able to roll that out pretty soon," Mark Fishman, president of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, said in response to questioning from FierceVaccines. Novartis is testing the vaccine in children under the age of 2, a population excluded from the labeling of current treatments like Sanofi's ($SNY) Typhim Vi.

Fishman was speaking at a press conference to discuss a collaboration between Novartis and the University of Cape Town's Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D). H3-D was set up in 2011 to give Africa a presence in drug discovery and is advancing a malaria drug through preclinical testing. Novartis is helping H3-D set up an FDA-level clinical trial site to test the malaria drug and other therapeutics.

When finished, the translational research center in Cape Town will complement South Africa's existing strength in vaccine trials. "There is a lot that has gone into development of infrastructure for vaccine trials [in Africa]. Some of the major trials of TB (tuberculosis) vaccines have actually been taking place in South Africa for a long time. So, that's not an issue that's been neglected," Kelly Chibale, founder of H3-D, said. 

- read the H3-D press release