Takeda snags another big subsidy for influenza vaccine plant in Japan

Takeda's Hikari plant--Courtesy of Takeda

Takeda got approval in Japan a month ago for its cell-cultured influenza vaccine it developed with Baxter International. Now, the Japanese drugmaker says the government will pony up another $70 million so it can expand a manufacturing plant for which it has already received significant subsidies.

Takeda said it has been selected by the government for the "supplemental subsidy" of ¥7.2 billion ($70.244 million). The drugmaker said it will use the money to expand production of the vaccine for an additional 8 million people in case of an influenza pandemic. With the extra capacity, it could provide doses for 33 million of Japan's 127 million people.

The drug will be produced at Takeda's plant in Hikari City. This is the third time the drugmaker has won funds from the Japanese government for its pandemic program. It first received ¥2.4 billion, about $23.4 million, in 2009 to develop the vaccine and start on a new vaccine plant where it could be produced.

In 2010, Takeda hooked up with Baxter, nabbing the exclusive rights to Baxter's proprietary cell-culture pandemic influenza vaccine technology for the Japanese market. Then in 2011, it scored big, getting a ¥23.9 billion ($233.19 million) government payout to build the plant in Hikari. It was just last month that the drugmaker got approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for a cell-culture influenza vaccine (H5N1 and prototype) to be manufactured at Hikari.

Japan's is not the only government that has been spending public dollars to make sure it has access to sufficient vaccine protection in the event of a pandemic event, perhaps started through an act of bioterrorism. The U.S. has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on vaccine plants being built by Novartis ($NVS), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Emergent BiosSolutions ($EBS) against influenza.

In a different category of vaccine need, Chinese vaccinemaker Sinovac Biotech last week said it had snagged a grant worth about $9.6 million from the Chinese government to build a production facility to manufacture its enterovirus 71 (EV71) vaccine vaccine against hand, foot, and mouth disease.

- here's the announcement