MedImmune has been awarded a contract from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to manufacture an influenza vaccine for the novel influenza A (H1N1) strain.

The monovalent (single-strain) live attenuated influenza drug will be used to vaccinate priority populations identified by HHS in its National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

An initial order of $90m has been placed for the vaccine.

MedImmune scientists have identified several promising vaccine candidates against the novel influenza A (H1N1) strain. The company is now evaluating their growth properties and antigenicity for mass production.

MedImmune executive vice president of operations Ben Machielse said that the company was pleased to be able to contribute to combating this unpredictable public health threat.

“We are confident that our vaccine technology has several attributes that may be useful in protecting people with limited exposure to influenza against the novel influenza A (H1N1) strain,” said Machielse.

MedImmune’s live attenuated influenza vaccine is different from the injectable influenza drug in that it is a gentle mist sprayed into the nose, where the influenza virus usually enters the body.

The dose contains live virus strains that are weakened so as not to cause the flu but prompt the body to mount an immune response after the first dose.