Plans to bolster capabilities come two years after reports into the H1N1 outbreak identified speed of vaccine manufacturing as a weakness. In response the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began discussions around the creation of innovation hubs and has now inked three contracts.
“Establishing these centres represents a dramatic step forward in ensuring that the United States can produce life-saving countermeasures quickly and nimbly,” Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, said. The facilities will use cell- and recombinant-based vaccine technologies to cut pandemic response times.
When the centres are working in 2015 HHS expects to have capacity for producing one-quarter of the US need for an influenza vaccine within four months of a pandemic outbreak beginning. In one of the H1N1 reports a halving of vaccine production times within three years was viewed as realistic.
To meet its 2015 goal HHS has inked three deals worth $400m. In the first deal, worth $163m over eight years, Emergent BioSolutions will work with academia to add capacity and get intellectual property rights for process development and manufacture of a pandemic influenza vaccine.
HHS has also turned to industry for the second deal. The $60m, four-year deal with Novartis builds on the 2009 public-private partnership that created a cell-culture flu vaccine facility in North Carolina.
An academic institute is leading the third project. HHS will give Texas A&M University $176m over five years to lead a project, with support from GlaxoSmithKline and Lonza, to create a vaccine development and manufacturing centre.
Industry spending will add to the investment in the centres. In return, the companies have the chance to secure lucrative long-term deals with the US Government. HHS can renew each deal for up to 25 years.