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Vaccine Arrives To Boost The Fight Against Deadly Hendra Virus In Australia

Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:08 am EDT


BRISBANE, Australia
"We are committed to responding rapidly to emerging infectious diseases in animals, especially to zoonotic infectious diseases which can threaten human health"

Australian horse owners who are battling against the deadly Hendra virus received an important boost today with the introduction of Equivac® HeV vaccine. The Equivac® HeV vaccine will be available for use under permit by accredited veterinarians thanks to an international public-private partnership created to make this important new vaccine accessible. The vaccine, launched by Pfizer Animal Health, will help prevent the spread of the Hendra virus by breaking the cycle of transmission that puts humans at risk.

Hendra virus has claimed the lives of four people and 81 horses since 1994.i With no known cure for Hendra virus, the Equivac HeV vaccine is positioned to become the most effective defence against this emerging infectious disease.

“As a veterinarian, I have seen firsthand how Hendra has created difficult working conditions for my colleagues and any Australian who works with horses,” said Dr. Deborah Middleton, veterinary pathologist and leader of the Hendra virus vaccine project at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL). “A horse vaccine is crucial to breaking the cycle of Hendra virus transmission from flying foxes to horses and then to people, as it can prevent both the horse developing the disease and passing it on. For the first time, we have a Hendra-specific tool that provides veterinarians with a greater level of safety when they come into contact with sick horses.”

An international collaboration is responsible for making the Equivac HeV vaccine available to Australian veterinarians and the equine industry. In Australia, Pfizer Animal Health worked in close partnership with the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL). In the United States, the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences (USU) and The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF) also contributed to the development of this important vaccine.

Pfizer Animal Health contributed to all aspects of the product development including a commercially viable antigen production system, vaccine formulation, production scale-up, safety and efficacy clinical trials, registration and commercial distribution. Pfizer Animal Health focused on speed to market for this important development, while responding to all the necessary safety and regulatory requirements of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.

“We are committed to responding rapidly to emerging infectious diseases in animals, especially to zoonotic infectious diseases which can threaten human health,” said Catherine Knupp, Vice President, Veterinary Medicine Research and Development, Pfizer Animal Health. “Our involvement in the collaboration to develop Equivac HeV speaks to our determination to support the global veterinary community with effective vaccines to aid in the control of potentially life-threatening diseases such as Hendra virus.”

“By investing in the development of innovative medicines and vaccines, we are not only supporting the local research and development industry, but also ensuring we can respond rapidly to emerging infectious diseases in Australia such as Hendra virus.” added Mike van Blommestein, Division Director, Pfizer Animal Health Australia.

U.S. partners, HJF and USU, also played an important role in the initial stages of the development of Equivac HeV vaccine. A research team at USU, led by Dr Christopher Broder, Ph.D., worked for more than a decade to find preventive treatments for both Hendra and related Nipah virus infections.

CSIRO’s AAHL contributed critical technical knowhow and advice on the virus to the partnership. CSIRO also provided the safe handling of Hendra virus and testing of the Equivac HeV at its high containment facility in Geelong, Victoria, the only laboratory in the world capable of such high-risk work.

Hendra virus is an emerging zoonosis that can cause respiratory and neurological disease and death in people. It is transmitted to people through close contact with infected horses or their bodily fluids. Despite the relatively few outbreaks, Hendra is a public health concern for its ability to cause disease and death in people and the potential for further infection.

“Pfizer Animal Health is collaborating with state based Chief Veterinary Officers and industry to ensure horses in areas evaluated as highest risk are supplied with the vaccine as a first priority,” advised van Blommestein.

As of today, Equivac HeV will be available for use by accredited veterinarians only. Further development work and data such as adverse events from the use of the vaccine by accredited veterinarians post launch will be used to support the full registration of the vaccine by the APVMA.

For more information about the Hendra virus, visit http://www.Health4Horses.com.au.

About Pfizer Animal Health

Pfizer Animal Health, a business unit of Pfizer Inc., is a global leader in the discovery, development, manufacture and commercialization of animal health medicines and vaccines, with a focus on both livestock and companion animals. For more than 60 years, we have been committed to enhancing the health of animals and bringing solutions to our customers who raise and care for them. To learn more, visitwww.pfizeranimalhealth.com.

About CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)

CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) is a front line defence, helping to protect Australia from the threat of exotic and emerging animal diseases. The Laboratory combines a capacity to rapidly diagnose animal diseases with high quality research.

AAHL is the most sophisticated laboratory in the world for the safe handling and containment of animal diseases and was custom-built to ensure the containment of the most infectious agents known. For the past quarter of a century the Laboratory has played a vital role in protecting Australia from biosecurity threats and risks posed by serious exotic and endemic diseases.

About Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF) is a private, not-for-profit organization established in 1983 and authorized by the U.S Congress to support medical research and education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and throughout the military medical community. For more information, visit www.hjf.org

About Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is the United States’ federal health sciences university. USU students are primarily active-duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who have received specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, preventive medicine, the neurosciences (to include TBI and PTSD), disaster response and humanitarian assistance, and acute trauma care. A large percentage of the university’s nearly 5,000 physician and 500 advanced practice nursing alumni have provided support, leadership and expertise to operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the globe. The University is committed to excellence in research with graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health open to civilian and military applicants that have awarded more than 400 doctoral and 800 masters degrees to date. For more information, visit www.usuhs.mil.

About Australian Veterinary Association

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is the only national organisation representing veterinarians in Australia. Its 7500 members come from all fields within the veterinary profession. Clinical practitioners work with companion animals, horses, farm animals, including cattle and sheep, and wildlife.

Government veterinarians work with our animal health, public health and quarantine systems while other members work in industry for pharmaceutical and other commercial enterprises. We have members who work in research and teaching in a range of scientific disciplines. Veterinary students are also members of the Association.



Ms Emma Wilkins, Acting Communication Manager Biosecurity Flagship
0409 031 658;
For further information, pre-recorded video footage or an interview, please contact:
Elinore White
Pfizer Animal Health
Office: 973-401-4044
Mobile: 347-331-9042
Katherine Barbeler
Weber Shandwick
02 9994 4406 / 0439 941 632
Andrés López-Varela
Weber Shandwick
02 9994 4476 / 0405 631 945