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New Bird Flu Vaccine Nears Human Tests

DNA-Based Vaccine Could Be Ready Fast if Flu Pandemic Hits

Will It Work? continued...

But Treanor warns that lots of vaccine approaches that look promising in mice never turn out to work in men and women. And he notes that experimental adenovirus vaccines have yet to live up to their potential.

"While adenoviruses have been evaluated as potential vaccine vectors for many years, there is no human vaccine that uses adenovirus for a vector," Treanor says. "There is no evidence that an adenoviral vaccine can protect humans against any disease except adenovirus."

Gambotto says this situation soon may change.

"I think this adenovirus technology is like the electric car," Gambotto says. "We all know that sooner or later we will drive an electric car. The technology just isn't quite there yet. But soon we will all be driving one."

Bird Flu Vaccines -- What's Next?

Gambotto says if the adenovirus vaccine works, it could be geared up to full production very soon after a flu pandemic breaks out.

Treanor warns, however, that the time savings offered by new technologies won't resolve all the problems with making a pandemic flu vaccine.

"This is not going to have as big an effect on the time to make a vaccine as you might think," he says. "It is generating the [ingredients needed to produce vaccine], it is the processing time, it is the putting-things-in-vials time, and all the other steps involved in making a vaccine," he says. "Growing a virus is one thing, but not the only thing. A process like this where you clone the gene into something would be faster. You shave time off the growth of the product, but there are other components that would still pose a time barrier."

Treanor hopes that the Gambotto team succeeds. If they don't, it's not the only chance for improved bird flu vaccines.

The next big breakthrough, Treanor predicts, will be finding a way to stretch out vaccine supplies by making small doses more effective. This can be done by giving the vaccine along with a substance called an adjuvant. Treanor says a new adjuvant, called MF59, looks very promising.

And Treanor notes that researchers at the National Institutes of Health are exploring a live-virus bird flu vaccine.

There's already a live-virus vaccine for seasonal flu -- FluMist.

"A development program at NIH is trying to make an H5 version of FluMist," Treanor says. "When we see how effective that is, that could be a big thing."

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