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UPDATE 3-J&J bows out of RSV vaccine race after scrapping trial

(Adds J&J comment on study results, background)

March 29 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson said it will discontinue the late-stage study of its experimental respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) adult vaccine, weeks after rivals Pfizer and GSK gained a lead in the race for the first vaccine against the virus.

J&J made the decision in order to "to focus on medicines with the greatest potential benefit to patients," the company said on Wednesday.

The drugmaker, which started the global study in 2021 in more than 27,000 adults aged 60 years and older, did not provide any further details about the trial.

The study was being conducted in more than 300 sites across the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, Chile, Brazil and China, among other countries, according to a government registry of clinical trials.

J&J, however, said it plans to share results from the late-stage study with the scientific community.

The company started the study following positive results from a mid-stage trial, which showed the vaccine was 80% effective in protecting against lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV.

Pfizer and GSK's RSV vaccines gained the backing of a panel of U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers in late February and early March, bringing them a step closer to approval in the United States. The health regulator is expected to decide on the two vaccines by May.

Pfizer and GSK are running a tight race to tap into the RSV vaccine market, which is estimated to be more than $5 billion and could exceed $10 billion by 2030, according to analysts.

There is currently no approved vaccine to prevent lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in older adults. It is responsible for 14,000 deaths in adults aged 65 and older annually in the United States, according to government data.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Shounak Dasgupta)