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Acambis upbeat on smallpox contract

By Rosie Murray-West
City Correspondent

Gordon Cameron, the chief executive of Acambis, is upbeat about the company's chances of winning a third contract to supply the US government with smallpox vaccine, despite increased competition from rival Bavarian Nordic.


"There is a lot of noise being created by our competitor and we have to deal with that," he said yesterday. "Our efforts are genuinely concentrated on keeping the customer informed and happy."

He said that he didn't see why Acambis wouldn't win at least half of the estimated $900m contract to supply the vaccine, which is weaker than the usual one and is suitable for vulnerable people such as the elderly.

Acambis has been transformed by two contracts to supply 209m doses of smallpox vaccine to the US and had been tipped by many to win the whole of the new contract.

However, Bavarian Nordic teamed up with Glaxo Smithkline this month, meaning that its chances of winning looked a lot stronger.

Acambis received a setback this year after the Food & Drug Administration in the US placed clinical trials of its main smallpox vaccine on hold after three suspected cases of heart inflammation. These occurred both in the Acambis vaccine and the rival medication with which it was being compared.

Some governments have taken the vaccine on an experimental basis without approval, while others were waiting to see what happened to the trials, Mr Cameron said. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.

Smallpox vaccine is notoriously volatile because it is a live vaccine and still made in much the same way as it was in the 19th century. Acambis shares fell 16 to 319p.

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