First cell-based flu vaccine manufacturing plant opens in U.S. - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/24/09

First cell-based flu vaccine manufacturing plant opens in U.S.

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By Kristin Beerman | email

Edited by Jon Bush | email 

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – One of the lessons the U.S. government learned during the H1N1 pandemic is that we need faster ways to develop flu vaccines.  Tuesday, the government and Novartis took a big step toward making that happen, by opening the first cell-based flu vaccine plant in Holly Springs, North Carolina, which is the first plant of its kind in the United States.

The current vaccine manufacturing process is so slow due to the virus having to be injected into every single egg, around 500,000 eggs per day.  The virus multiplies inside the egg and is later removed and purified. Instead of using eggs, this new cell-based vaccine plant will use large tanks to incubate the virus.  

An operator for the Novartis Company explains, "We replicate the virus in those large tanks, and then do the purification process. So it takes out all of the egg-based manufacturing process," says Mathew Stober.

The current egg-based method of producing vaccines makes 90-million doses in about six months, with the cell based plant researchers are expecting to produce 150-million doses in that same time period. There is just one problem, cell-based vaccines are not approved yet in the U.S., so the plant is open, but the government says it may be a few years before it can begin producing cell based vaccines.

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