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HPA scientists identify swine flu virus genetic code

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Health Protection Agency scientists have made the first step towards a prototype for a swine flu vaccine, health secretary Alan Johnson has announced.

The HPA’s National Institute of Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) has sequenced the full genetic code of the H1N1 influenza A virus that causes swine flu.

This is critical to understand how the virus operates and identifying crucial parts of the virus that can be used in vaccine manufacture.

European manufacturers will be able to take delivery of vaccine prototypes in the coming months so preliminary steps to mass vaccine production.

In July 2007, the government signed advanced supply agreements which will enable the UK to purchase up to 132 million doses of pandemic specific vaccine when it becomes available.

The agreements are worth £155.4m over four years and under these contracts, GSK and Baxter are committed to supplying a pandemic influenza vaccine as soon as the pandemic strain is identified and made available to the World Health Organisation.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said: ‘We have been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for some time. We now look to the vaccine industry to produce the required quantities of vaccine as quickly as possible.’

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