GSK vaccine plant helps U.S. arm for biodefense

Over the past decade, a chain of events drove an urgent rethink of U.S. vaccine supply. First, the crippling vaccine shortages that followed a bacterial contamination at a Chiron plant in England underscored the weaknesses of egg-based production. Then came waves of pandemic scares.

The succession of events convinced U.S. officials they needed a domestic network of production plants capable of responding quickly to threats. Now, with backing from the Department of Health and Human Services, some of that plan is materializing. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Texas A&M will build a $91 million vaccine production plant at the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing northwest of Houston. 

GSK will use the facility to manufacture vaccines using the EB66 cell culture line it licensed from Vivalis. The cell culture will free the plant from the need to source eggs and help it respond quickly to the emergence of pandemic strains. GSK expects to be able to supply 50 million doses within four months of an outbreak.

The Houston plant forms part of a three-pronged vaccine production network envisaged by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)A Novartis ($NVS) cell culture plant in North Carolina and Emergent BioSolutions' ($EBS) capabilities in Maryland are the other pieces of the network.

"This is part of the solution to provide domestic security for this nation for biodefense or against Mother Nature," BARDA director Robin Robinson said, the Associated Press reports. "This partnership will serve not only the nation, but the globe in terms of vaccines and other therapies."  

- here's the press release
- see the Associated Press article