Berna Biotech abandons Sars vaccine trial

Thousands of people were infected by the Sars virus last year

Berna Biotech is abandoning plans to develop a vaccine against the pneumonia virus, Sars.

This content was published on June 11, 2004 - 12:49

The Bern-based vaccine company said it was stopping trials because the disease was no longer seen as a priority by global health authorities.

Achim Kaufhold, head of development at Berna Biotech, said researchers had already completed the pre-clinical phase of research but would not proceed with further trials.

“Leading health organisations are operating on the assumption that there will not be another Sars epidemic,” Kaufhold told the “Berner Zeitung” in an interview published on Friday.

“Global interest in a Sars vaccine has waned, and Berna Biotech will only resume research if it receives support from the authorities,” he added.

Last autumn the company – which has been developing vaccines for more than 100 years - made headlines when it announced that it had come up with a prototype vaccine against the virus that leads to Sars.

Hundreds died

The Sars virus infected about 8,000 people worldwide in 2003 and killed nearly 800.

It briefly re-emerged in China last April, killing one person and fuelling fears that the disease could surface in an annual cycle similar to human influenza.

The World Health Organization confirmed on Thursday that the first human clinical trials of a Sars vaccine were currently underway in China, where four volunteers have been injected with a prototype.

Berna's announcement came as 150 leading scientists from 30 countries wrapped up four days of talks on global vaccine research in the Swiss lakeside resort of Montreux.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Berna Biotech reported a net profit of SFr19.9 million ($15.7 million) for 2003.
The company said it expected core sales to grow by at least 20 per cent in 2004.
Berna completed a takeover of Rhein Biotech - the world's third-largest maker of hepatitis B vaccines - in 2002.

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