Drug maker MedImmune Inc. said Wednesday it will work with federal researchers to develop a vaccine to be used against versions of the influenza virus that could cause wide outbreaks, including the avian flu.
MedImmune and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will test MedImmune's technique of using weakened live flu viruses to see if it is effective against strains that may lead to pandemics, the AP says.
That includes the H5N1 avian influenza strain, a lethal form that has appeared in southeast Asia and jumps from birds to humans. Scientists fear it could mutate and spread rapidly from person to person, sparking a global pandemic.
MedImmune and NIAID researchers plan to alter a harmful protein in the H5N1 strain and create a version that could be used in a vaccine meant to help people develop immunity to the virus.
The technique is based on MedImmune's use of live attenuated viruses, weakened forms of flu virus that are squirted into a patient's nose. Traditional flu shots use killed flu viruses to develop immunity. MedImmune uses the live virus in its FluMist vaccine.