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Executive Summary

CHIRON VACCINE FOR AIDS COULD BE AVAILABLE FOR TESTING "WITHIN A YEAR," following the successful cloning of the genetic material of the virus thought to be the causal agent of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), the company said. In addition, Chiron said that its AIDS work "is expected to lead to the development of a safe and cost effective blood test for diagnosing the disease," which the company estimated could be commercially available in six to eight weeks. In a Sept. 10 press announcement, Chiron reported that it has cloned the genome for the AIDS associated retrovirus (ARV). Chiron said that it believes ARV could be the same virus as HTLV-III, identified by Natl. Institute of Health researchers as being associated with AIDS, and the LAV virus discovered by scientists at the Pasteur Institute in France. Chiron was one of the approximately 15 companies whose applications to NIH for use of HTLV-III were turned down. As a result, Chiron approached Jay Levy, MD, University of California, San Francisco, for access to ARV. The five companies to win HTLV-III development rights were Abbott, DuPont, Litton Bionetics, Electro-Nucleonics, and Travenol Genentech Diagnostics. The Emeryville, Calif.-based biotech firm has already successfully developed an rDNA-derived hepatitis B vaccine for Merck that is currently undergoing Phase III testing and a feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine. Chiron said that it believes that "the expertise gained in the production of both the hepatitis B and FeLV vaccines will be advantageous in approaching the problem of development of a vaccine to prevent AIDS." The AIDS vaccine work is one of over 20 ongoing R&D projects at Chiron, including development of rDNA-derived blood factor VIII, tissue plasminogen activator, human growth hormone and vaccines for herpes, hepatitis A, and hepatitis non-A, non-B. In addition, Chiron's genetically produced human epidermal growth factor is now moving into Phase II clinicals for promotion of healing after corneal transplant surgery and other catastrophic eye diseases.

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