Vol. 1, Issue 21, October 7, 2003
Many False Starts For Nabisco Vaccine R&D Project
Despite recent advances, vaccine research and development remains an expensive, laborious, and risky business. That's why Nabisco - a division of Kraft Foods, Inc. - is not concerned about its failure to move any of its vaccine projects to a human trial stage.
"We knew this would be a long road when we started," said Nabisco vaccine research director Marvin Hughes. "We are optimistic about the next decade, though."
Nabisco made headlines in 2000 when it obtained a $40 million grant from the National Institute of Health to explore producing a vaccine for the West Nile Virus, which had made a well-publicized landfall in the United States the previous year. The company won the grant on the strength of a survey conducted by Kraft Foods.
"We determined that, of those respondents who were healthy and had neither contracted nor expired from the virus, a significant percentage also consumed wholesome, delicious Nabisco brand cookies and crackers," said Hughes. "We couldn't afford to rule out a connection."
Since 2000, Nabisco's new Vaccine Research Institute has taken in over $200 million in additional grants and private donations. The NIH has also pledged an additional $84 million in matching funds in 2004.
"Personally, I like Nutter Butters," said President Bush in a press conference, commenting on the popular Nabisco cookie brand. "If they can come up with a health solution that involves eating Nutter Butters, I think we'll be stronger as a nation for it."
Independent observers suggest that any vaccine, even if it were Nutter Butter based, would probably be injected rather than consumed in normal biscuit form.
"Still, I have some questions about Nabisco's experimental design," said noted Johns Hopkins immunologist Kevin Fowler. "I would like, for starters, to see some generic or competing cookie brands being used as controls in their studies, instead of boron."
With the official failure of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) vaccine project, due to the death of all participating test animals, the Nabisco program seems no closer to success today than it was three years ago.
"We're chastened to learn that grinding up delicious Oreo cookies and injecting them into rats causes them to die rather than acquire an immunity to SARS," said Hughes in a press conference today. "But I like to think that we've learned something, and are moving forward in this struggle a little bit wiser than we were."
"The longest journey begins with a single step," Hughes added, passing around a platter of Nabisco Chicken-In-A-Biskit crackers to reporters. "Eat up, flu season is getting underway."