$400 million to boost bioterror vaccine manufacturing

Three companies, one Swiss, one British and one U.S., will share $400 million to boost vaccine manufacturing capacity in the U.S. that the government can draft in the case of a pandemic or bioterror threats.

Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis ($NVS) are the recipients of the first phase of the buildup announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For Novartis, is it an addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars it already has received for the development, and potential loan, of its vaccine plant in North Carolina. HHS says the three companies will provide about 35% of the total cost of the initial building phase and HHS will support the cost of operation and maintenance of the centers in subsequent years.
Novartis and GSK are among the world's largest vaccinemakers, Reuters points out, while Emergent BioSolutions makes the anti-anthrax drug BioThrax, according to FierceBiotech. The companies have agreed to work with U.S. universities and smaller biotechnology companies at one of three dispersed centers to develop and manufacture the drugs. The HHS says the plan creates the infrastructure needed to quickly produce a variety of vaccines to meet a quarter of the U.S. needs if a disease sweeps the country. In 2009, HHS says, only one H1N1 vaccinemaker had facilities within the U.S. More funds are expected as the effort plays out.  

The largest slice, $176 million, goes to a consortium led by Texas A&M University, and includes GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines. Another $163 million is slated for Emergent and universities in Michigan and Maryland, for an 8-year grant. The remaining $60 million goes to Novartis for expansion of the vaccine manufacturing facility it already is building in Holly Springs, NC, in collaboration with HHS. It will work with North Carolina State University and Duke University.

The agency says each consortium will "retrofit existing facilities or build new ones to incorporate flexible, innovative manufacturing platforms that can be used to manufacture more than one product." The Novartis partnership, in which HHS agreed to pay for 40% of a vaccine plant, is the blueprint for the expansion. In exchange for the money, HHS secured the right to produce flu vaccine in the plant in case of a flu pandemic or other threat.

- here is the HHS statement
- read the Reuters story