The United States will invest one billion dollars to develop key components for a swine flu vaccine and conduct clinical studies into its efficacy, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.
The money will come from already existing funds and will be used to place orders with companies licensed to produce flu vaccine for antigens, the ingredient in a vaccine that causes the body to develop antibodies and adjuvants, which boost the body's immune response.
Part of the funding will be used to prepare pilot lots of vaccine for use in clinical studies to determine the proper dose for a vaccine against (A)H1N1 flu, the Department of Health said in a statement.
Based on the outcome of the clinical tests, pharmaceutical companies could decide to add adjuvants, which would allow them to reduce the amount of antigen necessary for the body to fight an invading virus.
"The actions we are taking today will help us be prepared if a vaccine is needed," Sebelius said.
Information gleaned from the clinical studies will be shared with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the global community "so that other countries can benefit from the US efforts to determine dosage, safety and effectiveness" of a swine flu vaccine, the Health Department said.
The WHO first reported an outbreak of swine flu late last month in Mexico. The new strain of H1N1 flu has since spread to more than 40 countries, infecting more than 11,000 people and claiming 86 lives.
North America remains the epicenter of the disease, which has shown itself to be no more severe than seasonal flu.
Earlier this week, WHO chief Margaret Chan recommended that the pharmaceutical industry concentrate on making vaccines for seasonal flu, which claims some 36,000 lives in the United States alone each year, while also keeping a close eye the (A)H1N1 flu and how it evolves in the southern hemisphere's influenza season.