US awards vaccine contracts16th July 2007
The US government has awarded contracts worth a total of US$132.5 million to two pharmaceutical companies to expand their manufacturing capacity to meet demand for new vaccine in the event of a global influenza pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the two cost-reimbursable contracts to sanofi pasteur and MedImmune, to fund a revamp of their existing facilities over five years.
This means that the two companies will now retrofit their manufacturing facilities to prepare them to make extra quantities of vaccine in the event of an influenza pandemic. They will also pledge to keep the facilities up and running so as to start operating at very short notice if necessary.
While many fear the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus may mutate to a form easily transmissible between people, there is no guarantee that the virus which eventually causes a pandemic - which experts see as inevitable - will indeed be bird flu.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said it was necessary to prepare for a pandemic, even though no-one was sure of when one would strike, or with what degree of severity.
"These contracts are important advances in the path of preparation because they help the nation build its capacity to respond," he said in a statement.
The five-year contracts were awarded to sanofi pasteur, a manufacturer of a US-licensed egg-based inactivated influenza vaccine product, for US$77.4 million and to MedImmune, a manufacturer of a US-licensed egg-based live, attenuated vaccine product, for US$55.1 million.
The contracts provide funding for renovation of manufacturing facilities and manufacturing warm-base operations for two years with options for an additional three years of warm-base operation. "Warm-base" refers to the stipulation that the facility be kept open so as to commence operation at short notice.
Upon completion, the facilities are forecast to expand domestic pandemic vaccine manufacturing capacity by 16%, the HHS statement said.
They would also make possible year-round production of pre-pandemic influenza vaccines for the national stockpile. Currently, vaccine production for the stockpile is limited to just three months in any given year.
The HHS Pandemic Preparedness Plan includes the establishment of pre-pandemic influenza vaccine stockpiles for 20 million persons in the critical workforce and the expansion of domestic pandemic vaccine manufacturing surge capacity for 300 million persons within six months of the onset of an influenza pandemic.
The contracts would be managed by the Office of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), formerly the Office of Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures, under the aegis of the HHS, it said.
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Title: US awards vaccine contracts
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 3483
Date Added: 16th Jul 2007