Argentina's Sinergium turns to cell-based technology for new vaccine production

Sinergium Biotech will build a $50 million vaccine plant in Buenos Aires province that will utilize recombinant technology for work on a Zika virus vaccine, as well as the flu vaccines it already produces.

Argentina's Sinergium Biotech, which is in a consortium to develop a Zika virus vaccine, intends to build a new plant that will use cell biology that can be utilized for a Zika vaccine or for the flu vaccine production it already does.

The company will invest about $50 million to build a plant in Buenos Aires province for primary antigen production, reports Argentinian news service EFE.

The new plant will utilize recombinant technology, which produces product much faster than the egg-based process traditionally used, so the company can respond more quickly to pandemic situations, Fernando Lobos, Sinergium's business development director, has said.

Last year, Sinergium joined Meriden, Connecticut-based Protein Sciences and the Mundo Sano foundation to jointly develop a Zika virus vaccine based on production of recombinant variations of the virus' E protein.

Sinergium will pay an undisclosed fee to fund the development and manufacturing of the Zika vaccine candidate under development at Protein Sciences, maker of the Flublok influenza vaccine. In return, Sinergium will receive manufacturing and commercial rights to the vaccine in Argentina and some other countries.

Sinergium currently produces flu vaccines, a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and a tetravalent vaccine.

Because recombinant technology reduces the production time for vaccines from months to weeks, Novartis employed it in a $1 billion U.S. influenza vaccine plant it opened in 2011. The facility was partly funded under a federal grant that would allow the U.S. to divert some production for its own use in case of a pandemic. Novartis sold the plant to Australia-based CSL for $275 million in 2015 when the Swiss drugmaker decided to exit the vaccine business.