Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Institute masters another flu drug

STAFF WRITER

Su Hsin-sen, right, director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute's Biomedical Engineering Center, and Lee Lien-tzu, head of the center's technical group, with bottles containing the Relenza drug and its basic material, sialic acid.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工業技術研究院) yesterday said that, after mastering the manufacturing process for Tamiflu, it has now also solved the manufacturing process for Relenza.

The process was said to involve a mere six-step chemical reaction to produce the medicine from the raw material, sialic acid.

The ITRI is the first institution in Taiwan able to manufacture the drug, and it can provide an uninterrupted supply. Manufacturing can begin in seven to 10 days, it said.

The institute is trying to develop the drug -- a powder that has to be inhaled -- into a more practical form.

The drug is still protected by patent rights, however, and a licen-se is needed for production.

Just like Tamiflu, Relenza controls the coat protein on a virus in an infected body, thus preventing the flu virus from surviving in the infected body.

Both drugs must be taken within 48 hours after infection, the report said. Relenza is, however, less convenient to take than Tamiflu, as it comes in powder form. This was also said to be the reason why Relenza is not available in Taiwan.

Since some bird-flu strains have developed a resistance to Tamiflu, Relenza has become a popular substitute. The World Health Organization also recommends Relenza as one of the drugs to use against bird flu.

Lee Lien-tzu (李連茲), head of the technical group at ITRI's Biomedical Engineering Center, was reported as saying that sialic acid is the crucial component in Relenza. He said that ITRI has had the technolgy to manufacture sialic acid for a long time.

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H5N1 `resisting' Tamiflu

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