HHS Awards Contracts Totaling More Than $1 Billion To Develop Cell-Based Influenza Vaccine
As part of the President’s plan to prepare for a pandemic, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today awarded more than $1 billion to accelerate development and production of new technologies for influenza vaccines within the U.S. These five contracts support the advanced development of cell-based production technologies for influenza vaccines and will help to modernize and strengthen the nation’s influenza vaccine production by creating an alternative to producing influenza vaccines in eggs. These funds are part of $3.3 billion proposed by the President and appropriated by Congress to HHS for fiscal year 2006 to help the nation prepare for a pandemic.
“Today, we’re taking a step closer to preparedness by investing more than $1 billion to develop vaccines more quickly and to produce them here in the United States,” Secretary Leavitt said.
He added, “We have the opportunity to be the first generation that prepares for pandemic. Our current capacity of egg-based influenza vaccine production is not sufficient to meet increased demands during an emergency. Accelerating the development of this vaccine technology and creating domestic capacity are critical to our preparedness efforts.”
Cell-based vaccine manufacturing -- a technology that is used in many other modern vaccines -- holds the promise of a reliable, flexible and scalable method of producing influenza vaccines. Currently licensed influenza vaccines are produced in specialized chicken eggs in a technique that has changed little in over 50 years. With increasing demand for seasonal influenza vaccine and with the looming threat of a pandemic, a system that allows surge capacity in an emergency is needed.
Using a cell culture approach to producing influenza vaccine offers a number of benefits. Vaccine manufacturers are able to bypass the steps needed to adapt the virus strains to grow in eggs. In addition, cell culture-based influenza vaccines will help meet surge capacity needs in the event of a shortage or pandemic, since cells may be frozen in advance and large volumes grown quickly. Licensure and manufacture in the U.S. of influenza vaccines produced in cell culture also will provide security against risks associated with egg-based production, such as the potential for egg supplies to be unavailable as a result of various poultry-based diseases. Finally, the new cell-based influenza vaccines will provide an option for people who are allergic to eggs and therefore unable to receive the currently licensed vaccines.
The following awards were announced today:
Previously, HHS awarded Sanofi Pasteur a $97 million contract for development of a cell-based vaccine in April 2005. This company was the first to be awarded a federal contract for commercial scale production of newer influenza vaccine methodology.
Developing improved vaccines and enhanced vaccine production capacity are top objectives laid out in the President’s National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. That plan and additional information are available at www.pandemicflu.gov.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: May 4, 2006