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Novartis starts supplying meningitis B vaccine to Princeton

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis said on Monday it had started supplying its meningitis B vaccine to Princeton University in an effort to stop an outbreak of meningitis on the Ivy League campus.

Although the vaccine, called Bexsero, is not yet approved in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to its use at Princeton following an Investigational New Drug application from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Eight students at the university have been diagnosed with the serogroup B strain of meningitis, a potentially fatal infection that causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord and can kill within 24 hours.

It is spread through coughing and exchanges of saliva, and people living in dormitories or other crowded living quarters are especially at risk.

Bexsero will be provided to all undergraduate students as well as graduate students who live in dormitories on or off-campus, Novartis said.

The vaccine is currently licensed for use in Europe, Australia and Canada. Novartis has completed Phase I and Phase II trials for the vaccine in the United States and is in discussions with regulators about the path to approval.

The drugmaker is counting on Bexsero to turn around the prospects of its vaccines business, which has gobbled up research and spending cash and lost money in the first nine months of the year.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Holmes)

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