Data on Novartis' Influenza Vaccine

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Novartis (NVS) continues to develop its vaccines franchise after having divested its diagnostics unit last week.

The company reported positive interim results from a phase I trial on its influenza vaccine being developed for the H7N9 avian influenza virus.

It was observed that approximately 85% of subjects (n=400 aging 18-64) showed a protective immune responds after two doses of the 15 ug MF59 adjuvanted vaccine.

Influenza vaccines are the core products of this division, which includes brands such as Fluvirin, Fluad, Agrippal, Optaflu and Flucelvax. Novartis’ meningococcal franchise consists of three vaccines – Bexsero, Menjugate and Menveo.

We remind investors that the vaccines and diagnostics business generated net sales of $1.3 billion in the first nine months of 2013, up 8% from the year-ago period.

Novartis aims to focus better on its strategic business and hence the company decided to divest its diagnostics business. We believe the divestment of the diagnostics unit is a step in the right direction as Novartis can invest resources to further strengthen its vaccines franchise.

Earlier in 2013, Novartis’ meningococcal serogroup B (MenB) vaccine, Bexsero, was approved in the EU for use in children over two months old. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) approved the label expansion of Menveo, thereby allowing the use of the vaccine for protection against meningococcal disease in infants and toddlers aged 2 months and above.

We are encouraged by the recent pipeline progress at Novartis with its vaccines franchise.

Novartis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Right now, stocks like Bayer (BAYRY), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Forest Labs (FRX) look attractive. All three carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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