Seqirus has big plans for its cell-based flu vaccine franchise, and after a scale-up to reach 20 million doses this year, the company still needs more capacity. The vaccine maker has unveiled a $140 million expansion to its Holly Springs, North Carolina, manufacturing plant as it aims to take the vaccine global.
The expansion will add 120 jobs to the site that Seqirus’ parent company, CSL, acquired from Novartis in 2015, allowing it to create the flu vaccine specialist. Six hundred employees already work there.
As traditional flu vaccines have faced efficacy questions over the last year, alternatives have garnered increasing attention. Officials in the U.K. previously endorsed Seqirus’ adjuvanted Fluad for adults over 65, and European experts last month recommended cell-based Flucelvax for approval. If Seqirus secures that approval by the end of year as expected, the company would market the shot as Flucelvax Tetra in Europe starting in the 2019-2020 flu season.
When CSL purchased Novartis' vaccines outfit and formed Seqirus back in 2015, the Holly Springs plant was making just 3 million doses of cell-based vaccine per year. This flu season, Seqirus plans to produce and distribute 20 million doses of Flucelvax in the U.S. and the company has said it has capacity for 40 million doses next year to support new launches. The expansion, which is expected to be complete by 2020, will further boost capacity for global markets.
Cell-based vaccines have garnered increasing interest after traditional egg-based flu shots faced efficacy questions last season. Last year, flu vaccines were 40% effective overall in the U.S., according to the CDC. In October, Seqirus presented an analysis of data from 12 flu seasons showing that H3N2 flu vaccine strains derived from cells better matched circulating strains than the vaccine strains made in eggs.
At the time, Seqirus president Gordon Naylor said egg-based vaccines remain the “backbone of the industry,” but he envisions newer alternatives gaining steam and potentially taking over the market. That would depend on continued positive efficacy data, increased manufacturing scale and support from the medical community, Naylor said.