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VaxGen to test anthrax vaccine on people

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Federal regulators approved VaxGen Inc.'s plan to test its experimental anthrax vaccine on about 100 people, the biotechnology company announced Tuesday.

The Brisbane-based company said it will begin testing the genetically engineered vaccine in a matter of days to produce an emergency stockpile for the nation.

News of the Food and Drug Administration's action was announced after the stock markets closed but it still sent VaxGen's stock soaring in after hours trading. The company's share price gained $2.63, or 79 percent, to $5.97.

The company's stock has plummeted from a 52-week high of $23.25 and has been dropping consistently since it announced in March that its AIDS vaccine experiment was mostly a failure.

The human volunteers will be injected with the experimental anthrax vaccine to see if it's safe and produces the desired immune response. No volunteer will be exposed to anthrax itself but rabbits and monkeys will be used at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

The human and animal data will be presented to together to the FDA in hopes of winning the agency's approval.

VaxGen was awarded a $13.6 million federal contract to begin work on the vaccine and is applying for two more anthrax vaccine contracts expected to be awarded later this year for advanced testing and manufacturing of 25 million doses.