HHS awards $25 billion against avian influenza

The United States government recently awarded five contracts worth up to $25 billion for the development of medical countermeasures against H5N1 avian influenza.

The awarding of the contracts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seen by experts as a signal that the U.S. government is taking the risk of avian flu seriously, according to

HHS officials awarded up to $9 billion dollars to Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, $8.3 billion to MedImmune, $4.7 billion to Sanofi Pasteur, two billion to GlaxoSmithKline and $1.5 billion to CSL Biotherapies.

All of the contracts are for the maximum amount possible for the duration of three years with options for an additional two years. HHS awarded the contracts through its Biomedical Advanced Research Projects Authority.

The companies are tasked with providing the U.S. government with vaccines, support and medical storage, not only for MCM's to prevent the spread of avian influenza, but also for post-exposure alleviation of symptoms and to prevent deaths as a result of the illness, reports.

Over the last decade, there have been 608 confirmed cases of H5N1 in humans causing 359 deaths. Most of the confirmed cases and deaths have occurred in Indonesia, Vietnam and Egypt. No cases have been reported in the United States.