Seqirus adding vax production facility in U.K.

sign on building that says Liverpool

Flu cell fermenter at a Novartis (now CSL) plant--Courtesy of Novartis

It was just 6 months ago that vaccines specialist CSL closed on its $275 million buyout of Novartis' ($NVS) influenza vaccines operations, getting three additional plants in the process. But the company says more capacity is needed and expansion is already underway in the U.K.

The vaccine maker today opened a new $9.5 million (£6.8 million) warehouse facility at the site in Liverpool but said that Seqirus, its flu vaccine operation, also will spend $21.3 million (£15.3 million) to build a new facility to expand its flu vaccine production capacity at the Speke site. A spokeswoman said the new facility will employ 30, with 5 of those jobs being new. The Speke site currently has 450 full-time employees. Work on the project is slated to begin in April and be complete in the second half of 2017.

CSL has made U.K. the focus of its Seqirus operation, which was created in November when CSL folded its existing vaccines and pharmaceutical business, bioCSL, into the Novartis influenza vaccines business it acquired last year. It has put Seqirus headquarters in Maidenhead. The combined company has over 2,000 employees and manufacturing facilities in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia.

As part of that buyout, CSL also got Novartis plants in Germany and the $1 billion influenza vaccine manufacturing plant in Holly Springs, NC, that the Swiss drugmaker built with significant U.S. taxpayer support. The U.S. plant is the first pandemic-ready site FDA-approved to make cell-culture influenza vaccines. The facility, supported in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of its pandemic preparedness program, started commercial production on Flucelvax in June of 2014. Novartis took a $1.1 billion charge on the sale of the flu vaccine business.

With the purchase of the Novartis operations, Seqirus is the No. 2 flu vaccine player behind Sanofi ($SNY). Execs have forecast that the Novartis business will be profitable in three years and over 5 years that CSL will overtake Sanofi to be the No. 1 flu vaccine maker globally.

- here's the announcement