Five companies won more than $US1 billion ($1.296 billion) in contracts to develop better influenza vaccines, and to make them on US territory, the US Health and Human Services Department said overnight. GlaxoSmithKline was awarded $US274.75 million ($356 million), MedImmune was awarded $US169.46 million ($219.7 million), Novartis Vaccines won $US220.5 million ($285 million), Computer Sciences corporation, DynPort Vaccine, working with Baxter International , won $US40.97 million ($53 million) and Solvay Pharmaceuticals won $US298.59 million ($387 million). The companies will work to develop cell based-vaccines to fight seasonal influenza or a pandemic strain. The new vaccines will be grown in labs in batches of cells called cell cultures, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. The new method aims to replace older, egg-based systems, which require steady supplies of carefully grown eggs and months of cultivation. The target is both the annual seasonal flu, and the H5N1 avian influenza spreading among birds. The virus does not yet easily infect people but it has killed more than 100 people. Experts fear it could mutate into a form that could spread easily and quickly among people. If it did, it would spark a pandemic and work would have to begin […]

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