A Breakthrough for Biotech

The first genetically engineered vaccine for humans is approved

It is not often that companies cheer the news that a competitor has beaten them to market with a hot new product. But something like that happened last week when the Food and Drug Administration announced that it had approved commercial production of a new vaccine against hepatitis B, a virus that causes an incurable and sometimes fatal liver disease and strikes an estimated 200,000 new victims every year in the U.S. Developed by Merck, the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, in partnership with Chiron, a small (1985 sales: $6 million) biotech firm in Emeryville, Calif., the product is the first genetically...

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