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California

Epimmune Gets AIDS Vaccine Deal

September 30, 2003|From Bloomberg News

San Diego-based biotech firm Epimmune Inc. on Monday said it had won a five-year, $16.7-million U.S. government contract to lead a group of companies in developing an HIV vaccine. Its shares rose 12% on the news.

Epimmune said the group included Denmark's Bavarian Nordic and two other California companies, SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., and Althea Technologies, which like Epimmune is based in San Diego.

Epimmune plans to use protein fragments from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to boost the immune system. Under the National Institutes of Health contract, Epimmune and Bavarian Nordic will test a vaccine made by Althea, and SRI will help manage the project.

The government also awarded vaccine-development contracts to AlphaVax Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., Novavax Inc. of Columbia, Md., and Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Tarrytown, N.Y., the NIH said. Altogether, the contracts are worth about $81 million over five years, the government said.

Each group is pursuing a different strategy to create a vaccine. The program is part of a new government push to help speed up an HIV vaccine search that has so far met with failure.

Epimmune shares on Monday rose 33 cents to $3.17 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. They have more than tripled this year. Novavax rose 7 cents to $7.37. Progenics gained 17 cents to $17.53. SRI and AlphaVax are closely held.

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