Novartis vax division booms as demand spikes

Xconomy has an interesting Q&A with Andrin Oswald, Novartis' chief of vaccines and diagnostics. Oswald explains that the vaccines division swelled by 1,000 people over the summer as the pharma giant added to its manufacturing staff to meet the sudden spike in flu vaccine demand.

Asked to describe the most "exciting new technology" in vaccine development, Oswald answered:

"I think it's the combination of reverse vaccinology, where we try to identify the right antigens by understanding the genome of the bacteria, and structural vaccinology, where with modern three-dimensional technologies we are able to actually visualize the antigen-based on which we can almost design the right antigen that you would use in a vaccine to create the intended immune response."

Novartis' other big vaccine initiative is a big new cell-based manufacturing center in North Carolina, which HHS is helping to fund in exchange for priority access when needed. HHS had to face a storm of criticism for the recent shortfall in the initial supply of swine flu vaccine. That heat would have turned blistering in the event the pandemic turned out to be more deadly than it did. In a future pandemic, HHS's $486 million investment in North Carolina could look like a real bargain.

- here's the Q&A from Xconomy