Hungary to get 10% of sales from bird flu vaccine
Friday, March 10, 2006, 17:28
Hungary, which reported its first bird flu outbreak last month, will receive a 10% share of the sales of an avian influenza vaccine it developed with local company Omninvest Kft, according to wire agency Bloomberg. Omninvest will pay the money into the government's research fund after receiving a Ft 2 billiongrant from the fund to develop a weapon against the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, government spokesman András Batiz said on Friday. “Omninvest will use the grant to finish documentation needed to start talks on the sale of the inoculation or the license to produce it,” Batiz said in a phone interview. The rate of infections in humans is increasing as the virus spreads through birds to more parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Georgia yesterday became the 23rd country to report an initial outbreak in birds since February. The H5N1 virus has killed at least 97 of 176 people infected since late 2003, including a boy who died last week in Indonesia. Bird flu's spread in Germany to a stone marten heightens concern the virus may be adapting to mammals, including people, scientists said.
Omninvest, which jointly developed the vaccine with researchers at Hungary's National Epidemiology Center, is also in talks with the Hungarian Development Bank Rt (MFB) about a Ft 2 billion loan, Economy Ministry spokesman Gergely Ábrahám said Feb. 15. The vaccine was tested on Hungary's Health Minister Jenő Rácz and 100 other health-care volunteers in September. A month later, the government said the vaccine was effective. The current vaccine can be altered in three to four weeks should the virus mutate into a form transmissible among humans, and can be produced in eight weeks, according to Rácz.