Shares in Acambis, the Cambridge-based vaccines group, soared 29 per cent yesterday after the company won a £300m contract to supply the United States with enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate every citizen.
The deal is likely to give Acambis a large steady income, since the vaccine is likely to have a "best before" date five years from production. Acambis already has the contract to replenish the American stockpile.
Acambis shares have risen 150 per cent since the anthrax attacks in the US heightened fears of bioterrorism. It is understood to be talking to at least two other governments over producing their stockpiles of smallpox vaccine, and said yesterday that the US deal did not exhaust its manufacturing capacity.
Yesterday's deal, to produce 155 million doses over the next 12 months, was won in conjunction with Baxter, the US healthcare group that owns 13 per cent of Acambis. It will do much of the bulk manufacturing and packaging of the product.
The award comes on top of a £240m contract last year that requires Acambis to produce 54 million doses in 2002.
The company fought off rival bids for the new contract from GlaxoSmithKline and the US firm Merck, after protracted negotiations with Tommy Thompson, the US Health Secretary.
Plans to give each bidder a piece of the contract were dropped on the grounds of price. Glaxo said that would have faced development costs that Acambis, as an existing producer, does not have.