05 September 1994 00:00 [Source: ICB]
PASTEUR MERIEUX CONNAUGHT, the Toronto-based vaccines arm of the Rhône-Poulenc group, has five major vaccines under development, each with a potential market value of between $300-700m/year, Michel Klein, assistant director of research outlined recently.
The greatest challenge - but the biggest unknown - is the development of an effective HIV vaccine. A collaborative multicentre approach has been adopted, combining Connaught's know-how in synthesising HIV peptides and ability to develop a genetically engineered pseudovirion with the expertise of Virogenetics (in developing a recombinant pox virus vector-based vaccine) and Transgene (in developing a recombinant envelope protein).
Klein believes the collaborative approach gives Pasteur Mérieux Connaught advantages over competitors in the scramble to develop an anti-Aids vaccine. 'We'll probably know in the first decade of the next century whether an Aids vaccine will be effective,' he said.
Of the other vaccines in the development pipeline, the closest to market - in Phase III clinical trials - is a borreliosis vaccine, offering protection against the debilitating Lyme disease. A parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine - a typical combination vaccine - is believed currently to offer the greatest near-term market potential, at around $700m/year, closely followed by a malaria vaccine, now undergoing Phase I clinical trials at the Water Reed Institute, a US military institute. The fifth product is a multivalent paediatric vaccine to protect against pneumonia, bacteremia, meningitis and otitis (middle ear inflammation).
* While Pasteur Mérieux Connaught continues work on a malaria vaccine, sister company Rhône-Poulenc Rorer has developed a new drug for the treatment of acute malaria by adapting a traditional Chinese medicine. The new drug, Paluther, is a semi-synthetic product of the chemical family artemisinin derived from the Chinese qing hao plant. The company has begun marketing the drug in Africa and hopes to expand the product into Asia over the coming months. The drug is being promoted for use by patients resistant to current quinine-based treatments.
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