Dutch biotechnology company Crucell has suffered a blow to its near-term product pipeline after calling time on Aerugen, a vaccine candidate for treating bacterial infections in patients with cystic fibrosis.

For years, Crucell concentrated on licensing a cell line technology used for the production of biologic drugs, but in 2003 announced it was starting up in-house product development, a change which was accelerated by the firm’s acquisition of Berna Biotech last year.

Aerugen, a vaccine targeting Pseudomonas aeruginosa, was among its most advanced clinical programmes and came from the Berna stable. The company also has a yellow fever vaccine in Phase III testing and a new hepatitis B vaccine filed for approval.

The decision to suspend Aerugen’s development came after a Phase III trial involving 476 patients who tested negative for P aeruginosa at enrollment failed to support the efficacy of the vaccine. Aerugen was no better than placebo at inhibiting colonisation with the bacterium, a common opportunistic infection in CF patients.

Crucell said that discontinuation of this clinical development program does not impact the Company's revenue forecast for 2006, nor its earlier stated goal to achieve cash break-even in 2007.

Shares in Crucell were down a little over 4% in mid-morning trading today at 14.89 euros.