Aug. 5 - Israeli drug company SciVac has developed a third-generation vaccine for Hepatitis B, a virus that kills more than half a million people each year. The company says the vaccine has the potential to stop the disease in its tracks and is currently seeking approval for its use in the United States and Europe. Elly Park reports.
This small bottle might hold the solution to global hepatitis B, a disease that kills some 600,000 people each year according to the World Health Organization. It contains a third generation vaccine for the hepatitis B virus, or HBV, created by the Israeli drug company SciVac. Its chief executive officer Michal Ben Attar. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHAL BEN ATTAR, SCIVAC CEO, SAYING: "We can eradicate this disease like vaccines did to small pox, diphtheria, tetanus. You cannot find these diseases in the world anymore. And I believe that this vaccine can do it to Hepatitis B." That's because their new third generation vaccine "Sci-B-Vac" contains all three native proteins of the virus making it look like HBV itself, compared to just one protein in second-generation vaccines that have been around for more than two decades. The company says SciVac is almost 100 percent effective against HBV, with a lower dosage than the second generation drug, which did not always produce antibodies. While hepatitis B is most prevalent in Third World Countries, the new drug is a tough sell in Africa and other developing nations that prefer cheaper alternatives. SciVac is seeking approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration in the hope it will lead to higher distribution around the world. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHAL BEN ATTAR, SCIVAC CEO, SAYING: "Currently we are selling mainly in Africa and Asia, trying to save countless lives. And once we will achieve the FDA approval, quite soon, it will spread all over the world. I believe this is the solution for the world." SciVac has distributed more than a half-million doses of its vaccine since 2009. But it still needs to reach more than 400 million people who are carriers, and at risk of developing chronic infections that can lead to death.