Canadian biotechnology group Biomira saw its Nasdaq-traded shares slip 6.6% to $1.52 on September 23, as investors shrank back on news that the firm and partner Merck KGaA of Germany will delay the start of a Phase III clinical trial of their cancer vaccine due to problems with the production process.

The Phase III study, which is designed to evaluate the vaccine in non-small cell lung cancer, was originally scheduled to start by year-end, but the discovery of problem with stability in the agent’s production process has forced a delay until next year [[24/05/05g]].

“An article published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Oncology this month underlined our confidence in the potential of L-BLP25 and the clinically important results seen with the product to date in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer," commented Dr Alex McPherson, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian group. "We are working with Merck KGaA and others to discover the cause of the problem now evident during the manufacturing process and to take corrective action as quickly as possible,” he added.

Successful development of a cancer vaccine would represent a lucrative opportunity to the companies. Last year, around 160,000 people are estimated to have died of this disease in the USA alone, and NSCLC accounts for about 75%-80% of all primary lung cancers. Furthermore, at the time of diagnosis, only 25% of patients are potentially curable by surgery, Biomira points out.