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Swine Flu Biotech Bubble Primed to Burst

It's hard to know where to begin the debunking. But we'll try.

First off, the likelihood of any of these vaccines actually being used to inoculate people against the swine flu in 2009 or 2010 is microscopic.

As everyone knows, the governments of the world's wealthiest nations cast their lots months ago with the big-pharma makers of traditional vaccines. The U.S., for its part, has ordered 195 million doses from five giants, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis (NVS) and Sanofi Aventis (SNY).

These companies' traditional vaccine recipes, most of which use chicken eggs as incubators, took decades to develop and commercialize. (Only about 15 vaccines have won regulatory approval in the last 75 years.)

They're also tried and true. Severe criticism did rain down on the chicken-egg production process after a worldwide vaccine shortage developed in the wake of a British manufacturing snafu in 2004. But in spite of this, the traditional vaccine makers still own the capacity to produced immense amounts of the stuff and at commodity pricing. Also, the vaccines that come out of the mills actually work well.

Thus, for the little biotech firm with dreams of shifting the vaccine paradigm, a daunting task awaits.

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