Japan, like other nations, is keen to ensure it can effectively respond in the event of the rapid spread of a virulent influenza strain. Establishing a cell culture-based influenza vaccine production facility is one proposed element of pandemic preparation plans.
"By collaborating with Baxter, a global leader in cell culture-based vaccine technology for influenza, we plan to establish an infrastructure for the production of pandemic vaccines in Japan", said Yasuchika Hasegawa, president and CEO of Takeda.
Under the terms of the development, license and technology transfer agreement Baxter will support Takeda in its pursuit of funding from the Japanese government. Takeda will use the funds to construct a Vero cell-based influenza production facility in Japan.
Technology transfer from Baxter will enable Takeda to produce a H5N1 influenza vaccine at full scale by March 31 2014, the end of the Japanese company’s 2013 fiscal year. Payments from Takeda to Baxter will be made on completion of certain milestones, such as technology transfer.
To construct the facility and successfully meet all milestones Takeda and Baxter will apply for the government's public offering under the secondary supplementary budget. Takeda was previously chosen to receive ¥3.6bn ($42.9m) to invest in pandemic vaccines under the primary supplementary budget.
Other aspects of the deal include the exclusive license of Baxter’s Vero cell-based technology for the Japanese market and the joint efforts to develop and license a H5N1 vaccine in Japan.
Baxter claims use of Vero cell-based production technology can, and in the H1N1 outbreak did, shorten the time taken for full-scale production of an influenza vaccine. Time savings are realised by eliminated the need to adapt the virus strain to grow in eggs.
Recognising this some governments want to boost cell culture-based production infrastructure. A US report into the H1N1 response said in the long-term cell culture should replace “the inherently time-consuming egg-based method” which makes production “a long and unpredictable process”.