Maryland fails to seduce Novartis

By Gregory Roumeliotis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Influenza Influenza vaccine Novartis

Maryland is no longer in the running for a $500m (€392m) vaccine
manufacturing plant Novartis is seeking to build in the US, as
speculation about which state will host America's first cell
culture-derived influenza vaccine plant is reaching fever pitch.

The state had been in the running with North Carolina and Georgia for the Swiss company's plant, offering incentives to convince Novartis to make the investment, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

But Aris Melissaratos, Maryland's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, has now been reported by the Washington Business Journal as saying that other states were willing to give away free land and so Maryland couldn't compete with that incentive given this region's high real estate prices.

Asked by what criteria the drugmaker is using for the selection, a Novartis spokeswoman cited the availability of an educated workforce and the proximity to other company locations as key requirements.

The facility has attracted great interest because it will be the first US-based vaccine manufacturing facility using biotechnology cell cultures rather than chicken eggs for primary production.

Current egg-derived vaccines production requires several months of logistics for ordering and receiving eggs, so this lead time can hinder the response to unanticipated demands such as the discovery of pandemic strains, production failures and seasonal influenza virus strain changes.

In contrast, flu cell culture production enables flexible, faster start-up of vaccine manufacturing, and is independent of the availability of eggs, providing an important advantage in the event of an influenza pandemic.

By the end of 2006, Novartis hopes to have the first human flu vaccine using cell culture technology filed for review by European regulators, and in final-stage clinical trials in the United States.

In May the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Novartis up to $220m to support the development of a cell culture-derived influenza vaccine, both to supply seasonal influenza vaccine and to respond rapidly in the event of an influenza pandemic.

Novartis made its big entrance in the US vaccine manufacturing scene last April with the $5.4bn acquisition of Chiron, the troubled vaccine maker whose Liverpool facility was shut down in 2004.

Chiron's 48m dose production of Fluvirin flu vaccine was judged unacceptable for use by the FDA, a development that not only devastated Chiron, paving the way for its buyout by Novartis, but also let Americans in some cases queuing for their flu shots.

Novartis however is confident its biotechnology will give it an edge in vaccine production in the race with its major competitors, sanofi pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline.

Related topics Markets & Regulations

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more