Biotech companies scramble as swine flu spreads
April 27, 2009 — 7:05am ET |
By John Carroll
You can expect to see a considerable amount of scrambling among vaccine makers as swine flu grabs headlines and raises fears of a global pandemic.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday morning that Baxter International has requested a swine flu sample so that it can get to work developing a vaccine that can guard against this new strain of flu. Like other major vaccine makers, Baxter has been advancing a cell-based approach to replace the traditional egg-based manufacturing method. The vaccine industry won significant support from the U.S. government to start a switch to the new approach so that new vaccines could be readied faster and produced more reliably in the event of a pandemic.
Reuters has reported that venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers stands to benefit from the outbreak that originated in Mexico because two of its portfolio biotech companies–BioCryst and Novavax–have technologies that could be used to fight swine flu. Both companies saw their stock prices surge on Friday as investors looked to profit from the sudden swine flu frenzy.
Roche and GlaxoSmithKline are likely to benefit from a new binge of global antiviral stockpiling. Both Tamiflu and Relenza appear to work to protect people grappling with swine flu.
The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that swine flu has killed more than 100 people in Mexico. Health officials in Spain and Canada have confirmed mild cases of swine flu among people who recently traveled to Mexico and the WHO is calling for global surveillance. And on Sunday the U.S. declared a public health emergency as 20 cases in states scattered around the country confirmed new cases. All of the cases have been mild.
In Mexico City, meanwhile, young adults appear to be most threatened by the outbreak. The worst cases involve extensive lung damage, possibly as the result of an excessive immune response among the most robust segment of the population.
ALSO: The European Union’s health commissioner is urging Europeans to avoid non-essential travel to the U.S. and Mexico. Report