Tuesday, April 28, 2009

andromeda strain...,

The Scientist | As reported cases of swine flu continue to accumulate (as of today, 40 had been reported in the US) and mainstream media outlets dust off their foreboding music tracks and positively scary taglines, a biotechnology company in Maryland says that its approach may speed development of a successful vaccine.

Researchers at Novavax have been developing vaccines for the H5N1 strain of avian flu, along with other strains of influenza, over the past few years using an approach built around virus-like particles (VLP)--viral membrane proteins in a matrix of lipids. Researchers from the company, with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a study last month in which they successfully protected mice against a reconstructed virus from the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak through intranasal immunization with H1N1 VLPs.

A new strain of H1N1 is likely causing the current outbreak of swine flu in North America, which this weekend led both the World Health Organization and the CDC to declare a public health emergency.

Gregory Poland, an immunologist and head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said VLPs and other novel approaches to vaccine development, for combating influenza are exciting but untested. "The issue, from the perspective of influenza, is that none of these is approved," he said. In fact, the only FDA-approved VLP-based vaccines on the market are those developed to protect women from human papillomavirus.