Seqirus Wins $30.1 Million Government Contract for Vaccine Work

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Seqirus, a global vaccine maker with a newly expanded manufacturing plant in Holly Springs, has signed a $30.1 million federal contract to produce a potential vaccine against avian flu.

The company will test the vaccine, including a proprietary adjuvant, in a phase 2 clinical trial expected to begin in the second quarter of 2023. An adjuvant is a substance added to a vaccine to stimulate a stronger and more durable immune response.

The work, funded by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), will support the federal government’s pandemic preparedness efforts.

It comes after several outbreaks of avian flu, also called bird flu, around the world, including in the United States.

Over 47 million wild aquatic birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry throughout the country have been affected by the virus since January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Commercial poultry operations in two North Carolina counties – Johnston and Wayne – have reported outbreaks.

However, the CDC considers the virus to be a low risk to public health. Bird flu viruses generally don’t infect humans, but sporadic human infections do occur. Only one person in the United States, a poultry worker in Colorado, is reported to have tested positive for bird flu so far this year.

$156 million expansion completed

This summer Seqirus completed a four-year, $156 million expansion of the Holly Springs facility that will bring about 80 new jobs. The site, which employs more than 800 people, will support the formulation and fill-finish of the company’s cell-based influenza vaccines in pre-filled syringes.

The new pre-filled syringe line has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will support influenza vaccine production for the 2022-23 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere and beyond. The expansion will also enhance the site’s ability to respond to an influenza pandemic.

Seqirus renewed a five-year agreement with BARDA in February that will allow the company to produce up to 150 million doses of flu vaccine in case of a pandemic. Last October Seqirus also won a $35 million contract with BARDA to develop two pandemic flu vaccines.

The Holly Springs plant, located 24 miles south of Research Triangle Park, was built by Novartis in partnership with BARDA and began production in 2014. Novartis sold the plant and its vaccines business in 2015 to the vaccines division of CSL Ltd., an Australian biopharmaceutical company, for $275 million. CSL renamed the vaccines business Seqirus.

Seqirus is one of four healthcare businesses owned by CSL, which employs more than 25,000 people worldwide. In August CSL reported a net profit after tax of more than $2.2 billion for the 2022 financial year.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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