Acambis trials raise hopes of vaccine for West Nile fever

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The Independent Online

Acambis, the biotech firm formerly known as Peptide Therapeutics, is today expected to announce positive trial results for a vaccine technology being developed against West Nile encephalitis, the mosquito-borne disease that caused panic in New York in 1999.

Acambis, the biotech firm formerly known as Peptide Therapeutics, is today expected to announce positive trial results for a vaccine technology being developed against West Nile encephalitis, the mosquito-borne disease that caused panic in New York in 1999.

The technology, called ChimeriVax, is being used to develop vaccines against Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever, hepatitis C, and West Nile encephalitis. In phase I/II trials investigating its application to Japanese encephalitis, ChimeriVax was found to be both safe and effective.

Acambis estimates the size of the JE market is $300m (£200m). The total value of ChimeriVax's addressable markets is put at $1bn.

ChimeriVax is derived from a live strain of the yellow fever virus. Acambis alters the genetic profile of the virus to display properties of other so-called "flaviviruses", to create vaccines of similar safety profile to the yellow fever virus, but with different targets.

Acambis received a $3m grant from the US government to develop a vaccine against West Nile encephalitis after seven people died from the virus when it appeared in New York two years ago. The disease, which is fatal in 7 per cent of cases, causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.

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