Novartis opens Holly Springs flu vaccine plant

Posted November 24, 2009

— Swiss pharmaceuticals maker Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) opened the doors Tuesday at its first U.S. plant to produce flu vaccines using cell cultures instead of egg-based methods.

The $1 billion, 430,000-square-foot plant is geared to supply 150 million doses of vaccine within six months of an influenza pandemic declaration, Novartis officials said. The plant also will be “ready to respond to a pandemic as early as 2011 if licensed in an emergency,” according to the company.

"It's going to run 24/7, (and) within a couple of years, we will have plenty of doses coming out of this plant for the whole United States," U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said. "Cell-based technology is a real step forward."

Novartis received some $487 million in funding from Health and Human Services to help build the facility. Construction has been underway for nearly two years, and workers recently installed the “reactors” in which the flu vaccine will be grown.

About 350 people will work at the plant when it is fully operational.

Holly Springs officials offered an economic incentive package estimated to be worth about $40 million to attract the plant. Mayor Dick Sears called the package a good investment.

"I think, in this day and age, with the economy the way it is, anybody that can bring 300 or 400 hundred jobs to a town is doing very well," Sears said. "As of this year, they are paying us in taxes more than (what) we're paying out on the loan. So we're ahead of the game.

"We're very happy campers."

Gov. Beverly Perdue said the Novartis plant is another example of the benefits of using incentives to recruit business to North Carolina.

"North Carolina has to compete. (Incentives are) one of the tools in our toolbox," she said.

Although the plant isn’t expected to produce vaccines to combat the ongoing H1N1 pandemic, Novartis officials said it could begin production of an adjuvant – an ingredient that boosts the effectiveness of vaccines – in December.

The company will use the plant for production of vaccines based on cell cultures rather than the traditional means of produce vaccines through the cultivation of seed virus in chicken eggs.

"This is going to be much better, much more reliable for future pandemics or preparing for the possibility for the future pandemics," 4th District Congressman David Price said.

The sale of flu vaccines from cell cultures is not yet approved in the United States, but Novartis is allowed to produce them in Holly Springs. Novartis already operates a cell-based flu vaccines plant in Marburg, Germany.


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  • whatelseisnew Nov 25, 2009

    Over 500 million dollars we do not have. Gotta love idiot politicians. Figure 30 years of interest to pay back the 500 million. that plant better be around for a few decades.

  • time4real Nov 25, 2009

    looks good for jobs IF you're qualified! too bad this won't help the "pandemics" for several years!

  • chevybelair57sd Nov 25, 2009

    this looks good for jobs, unfortunately most of the jobs are being filled by qualified biopharma workers from other pharmacuticals like the Wyeth/Pfizer plant in Sanford and downsizing victims in the triangle so don't count most of the jobs as new, we're just switching folks already counted as employed

  • Nunya123 Nov 25, 2009

    Maybe they should close this plant and move it back to their country. Then everyone would complain about that. There just so many people that can't be pleased now no matter what someone does. It is so disappointing all the negativity in the posts on here.

  • Southern Cal Nov 24, 2009

    I think it is amazing when people jump on an article with negative responses.
    1. Creating jobs is a good thing
    2. The money? Vaccines are not cash cows.
    3. For every drug that gets FDA approval, thousands do not get to phase 1. The amount of money that goes back into research and development is enormous.

  • ashleyrosiered Nov 24, 2009

    You would think people would be happy about more jobs in Holly Springs? After all the layoffs everywhere else !

  • prettylittleangeleyes Nov 24, 2009

    That's just great. Now we get to live close to some experimental facility and hope that the monkey pox doesn't leak out of it!

  • wattsun Nov 24, 2009

    My guess is that some people on here who are using scare tactics are spreading fear so that they are more likely to get one of the limited available vaccines.

    LOL, That's Laughable you can go ahead and have mine.

    you think Pharmys are not making money off vaccines? Really. look at Baxter's profits this year.

    I agree with you on one thing, there will be vaccine for just about every illness in the next decade... now weather they work or cause more acute problems will be debatable...

  • wattsun Nov 24, 2009

    Did you even take the time to read the link to the articles?
    Go to Forbes and look up top paid CEOS tell me that Pharmy executives are not raking in Millions?
    True Most Lower level pharmy employees are compartmentalized So no they are not involved
    and they only needed until the next big layoff or sell off next year.
    One final thing, the inventors who patented the Swine flu vaccine 2years before the outbreak just happen to be on the board of the WHO at the same time.
    Problem Reaction Solution

  • scientistjo Nov 24, 2009

    Yes, absurd. One can predict the possibility of such a flu virus and file a patent prior to the flu becoming a pandemic. This isn't the first H1 virus ever.

    Also, pharma companies make much less $ off of vaccines than they do any other medicine. So they would be much better off creating a cancer with a cure that only they own, spreading disease, and then making the big $$$.

    My guess is that some people on here who are using scare tactics are spreading fear so that they are more likely to get one of the limited available vaccines.