Sanofi bird flu vax prompts immune response in PhII--but only with Novartis adjuvant

NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci

As it works to refine its vaccine strategy for the event of an avian flu pandemic, the NIH is trialing Sanofi's ($SNY) H7N9 vaccine at a range of doses and with a variety of adjuvant combinations. And now, it has one that looks promising.

In a Phase II trial, the vaccine prompted an immune response in 59% of the 700 participating healthy adults--but only when mixed with Novartis' ($NVS) MF59 adjuvant. Without MF59, even those patients who received a higher-dosage vaccine had minimal immune responses, the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said Wednesday.

H7N9 first hit the public health radar in March of last year, when the virus first surfaced in humans in China. Since then, the NIH has launched two trials to assess Sanofi's vaccine in conjunction with both the Novartis adjuvant and A503, an adjuvant from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).

While the number of reported cases has declined considerably as of late, the virus can still cause serious illness. Approximately 67% of reported cases have required hospitalization, and as of Sept. 4 of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had recorded 166 bird flu deaths.

So despite the fact that H7N9 doesn't spread easily from person to person, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said in a statement, conducting trials like these is "prudent" in order to be prepared in the event of a pandemic.

"All novel influenza viruses have the potential to evolve to cause widespread illness or death," he said.

- read the NIAID release

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