Novartis opening vaccine R&D lab in North Carolina

Since breaking ground in Holly Springs, NC, in 2008, Novartis ($NVS) has repeatedly expanded the already ambitious scope of the cell culture vaccine site. Now, the Swiss drugmaker is adding a vaccine R&D laboratory in nearby Research Triangle Park (RTP).

Novartis has inked a 5-year lease on the RTP laboratory space, WRAL TechWire reports, and is preparing to relocate 30 staff from Holly Springs, which lies a 30 minute drive south of the new site. The opening of the lab will give Novartis R&D capacity for pipeline products, such as the HIV vaccine it is developing in collaboration with National Institutes of Health (NIH). Novartis' Holly Springs chief Chris McDonald also singled out a program to prevent cold-like infections from respiratory syncytial virus as an example of the projects the RTP site will support.

As these and other programs get underway at the RTP lab, Novartis plans to grow its headcount to 100. Some of the staff will take on process development work currently performed at Novartis' viral research labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Novartis opened the 80,000-square-foot Cambridge facility in 2008 to develop vaccines for HIV, influenza and other diseases. While Novartis' vaccines headquarters is still located next to the Cambridge research lab, North Carolina has also risen as an important part of its network.

Novartis is looking to supplement work done at these internal vaccine development labs with partnerships. Brent MacGregor, president of Novartis' U.S. vaccines operations, expressed particular interest in drug delivery technologies that end reliance on needles and vials. "A patch could be a quantum leap forward," MacGregor said.

- here's the WRAL TechWire article