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Drug Firm on the Threshold of Developing Dengue Vaccine

A giant pharmaceutical firm is close to developing the world's first vaccine against dengue fever as Singapore and neighbouring countries battle outbreaks, a news report said Friday.

Clinical tests on up to 3,000 people will begin by early next year in Thailand, said Jean Stephenne, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals president.

"We've been working on the dengue vaccine with the US Army for 10 years, more or less," The Straits Times quoted Stephenne as saying.

The Thai trials will be part of the second phase of the process.

The vaccine was tested on 500 people in the United States during the first phase and proved safe and effective, Stephenne said. Once the Thai trials are completed, the vaccine will move to the final stage to test its effectiveness in other parts of the world, including Singapore.

Cases of the Aedes mosquito-carried virus have reached epidemic levels twice in the city-state since June. There have been 3,597 cases and three deaths since the start of the year.

Intermittent rain and warm weather have been blamed for the onslaught of mosquito breeding.

Stephenne said that another key factor is that the virus has four variations.

"We have to prove the vaccine will be safe for everyone, which means both children and adults," Stephenne told the newspaper.

The company is aiming to have the vaccine on the market in about five years. By that time, Stephenne estimates that between $500 million to $1 billion will have been spent on research and development.


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