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BIOGEN's SECOND VACCINE PROJECT FOCUSES ON MALARIA

Executive Summary

BIOGEN's SECOND VACCINE PROJECT FOCUSES ON MALARIA in a joint venture with Behringwerke, the biotech firm announced in a Feb. 11 press release. Under the agreement, Hoechst subsidiary Behringwerke will develop and market the vaccine using genetic engineering technology supplied by Biogen. "This agreement, which brings together Biogen's technology and Behringwerke's expertise in the manufacturing and marketing of biologicals, will speed the development of this much-needed vaccine," Biogen Chairman and CEO James Vincent stated. "Using the genetically-engineered antigens developed by Biogen, Behringwerke can apply its extensive scientific and manufacturing resources to bring this important product rapidly to market." Unlike recombinant vaccines under development by Roche and Smith-Kline, the Biogen/Behringwerke vaccine targets the merozoite or "blood" phase of malaria rather than the initial sporozoite phase. Biogen explained that it has cloned and expressed a number of surface proteins of the malaria parasite's merozoite form, which occurs after the original mosquitotransmitted sporozoite has matured in the liver. The release noted that Behringwerke "will use the merozoite antigens in a vaccine intended to interrupt the disease cycle by preventing the malaria merozoites from infecting red blood cells." Biogen's first effort in the vaccine area centered around hepatitis B. Currently, the Wellcome Foundation and Green Cross are developing a hepatitis B vaccine under license from the biotech firm. Biogen noted that the vaccine is currently in Phase II clinicals in Japan.

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