Novartis is excited about data from a Phase II study of its experimental meningitis vaccine Menveo which shows that the jab generated “an excellent and broad immune response” against four types of the disease in infants as young as six months old.

The data, which was presented at the 5th World Congress of The World Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases in Bangkok, Thailand, involved 175 infants who received either two doses of the vaccine at ages six and 12 months, or one dose at 12 months. The results demonstrated that the infants showed a robust immune response against serogroups A, C, W-135, and Y after one month.

"Menveo has shown in clinical trials that it is well-tolerated and generates high immune responses across all age groups, including infants," said Joerg Reinhardt, chief executive of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. He added that the firm “is rapidly developing this vaccine in a broad range of ages as an effective new option against meningitis and expects to make regulatory submissions in 2008."

Approximately 500,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis are estimated to occur each year around the world, with 50,000 deaths blamed on the disease annually. Up to 20% of those who survive are left with permanent disability such as deafness, neurological damage or limb loss. In addition to Menveo, Novartis is developing a recombinant vaccine aiming to provide coverage against the B serogroup, for which no vaccine has been achieved.