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Novartis Plans to Produce Vaccines by 2011

Photo courtesy of Novartis

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis opened the first flu vaccine manufacturing plant of its kind today in Holly Springs. The company uses cell cultures to produce vaccines, rather than the more common egg-based method.

"Instead of using half a million eggs, we use tanks," said Mathew Stober, Global Head of Technical Operations for Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

This combination and strategy gives Novartis an advantage, so they can design and build products faster.

"This is a very important milestone in flu vaccine manufacturing" said Andrin Oswald, CEO of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. "I think the facility speaks for itself."

He stressed that the company is not trying to sell its product by instilling fear in people, but is preparing to save lives in a flu pandemic.

"It would be irresponsible not to prepare for such a pandemic," Oswald said.

Construction on the 430,000 sq. ft facility will be completed in early 2010, and it plans to start producing pandemic flu vaccines in 2011, which will likely be too late for the H1N1 virus.

The facility will be in full operation by 2013. At this point, the company will be able to produce 150 million doses of pandemic flu vaccine in six months.

U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Gov. Bev Perdue were given a tour of the facility and served as speakers during the ceremony. A ribbon cutting followed.

The Holly Springs facility will eventually employ approximately 350 people.