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Cablegate: Taiwan Develops Cell-Based Avian Flu Vaccine

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0876 1090831
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190831Z APR 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4946
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6651
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8583
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 8676
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000876

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

HHS PASS MARK ABDOO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMED AMGT CASC TBIO SOCI TW
SUBJECT: TAIWAN DEVELOPS CELL-BASED AVIAN FLU VACCINE

REF: 05 TAIPEI 004764

1. According to local media reports, Taiwan has developed a
cell-based vaccine to counter the H5N1 Avian influenza (AI)
virus. The government-funded National Health Research
Institutes (NHRI) took just one year and NT$40 million (about
$1.21 million) to successfully develop the vaccine.

2. The cell-based vaccine is derived from dog kidney cells
which until now have not been used in any vaccine production.
The cell-based technology was chosen over the usual poultry
egg-based method in view of a likely shortage of eggs during
an AI epidemic. Taiwan Center of Disease Control contacts
(TCDC) told AIT that the new vaccines will provide a source
of vaccines should an AI epidemic hit the island and will be
tested on humans next year. Before that takes place the
facilities where the vaccine are to be produced need to be
certified by the health authorities.

3. According to TCDC contacts, NHRI could produce 7,000
doses a month and plans to increase this tenfold once a pilot
plant is built. Taiwan has stockpiled 190,000 doses of human
H5N1 vaccines imported from Belgium and Austria. In an
effort to increase their preparation against a flu epidemic
Taiwan health officials had previously authorized a
compulsory license to local drug firms to manufacture Tamiflu
(reftel).

4. Taiwan has detected less virulent strains of AI in bird
droppings last year and in January. A total of 467,000
chickens have been destroyed to date after the H5N2 strain
was discovered on chicken farms on Kinmen island. The
island, although controlled by Taiwan, is located just
offshore mainland China and is
vulnerable to transmission of AI from the mainland.

5. Comment. This vaccine, if proved safe and effective,
could give Taiwan the ability to produce AI vaccines on
demand, and not subject it to licensing requirements that
apply for producing vaccines developed outside Taiwan. End
comment.

YOUNG
YOUNG

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