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Holly Springs Novartis plant first maker of revolutionary new flu vaccine

Posted September 24, 2014

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— Pharmaceutical maker Novartis on Wednesday celebrated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's licensing and first shipments of a new flu vaccine that the company says could drastically help with reducing a potential pandemic.

The company's Holly Springs plant is the first facility in the United States that can manufacture the drug known as Flucelvax, a revolutionary cell-culture based vaccine harvested from a dog's kidney.

Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been derived from a virus grown slowly in chicken eggs. In the event of a pandemic or serious flu season, the slow pace of production could mean a shortage of the traditional vaccine.

With cell culture technology, the manufacturing process does not need advance planning, and it can be rapidly expanded to produce new vaccines.

In the event of a flu pandemic, researchers can mass-produce 150 million doses of the drug within six months, says Novartis' president of vaccines for the U.S., Brent MacGregor.

"There's always the risk in the event of a pandemic that the egg supply could be compromised," MacGregor said. "What we deal with, instead, are frozen cell culture stocks, and they're readily available for rapid initiation of production."

MacGregor says there is no discernable difference in the effects of Flucelvax and the traditional vaccine. The only difference patients will notice is that there will be a steadier, more reliable supply of flu vaccine, should it be needed.

That's good news, said Rep. Renee Ellmers, who, along with Gov. Pat McCrory, was part of Novartis' celebration Wednesday.

"Right now, we have the threat of Ebola, some of the other flu issues that are happening now with our children, and we have to get ahead of that," the second-term congresswoman and former registered nurse said.

"Prevention will save lives and also save taxpayer dollars in health care," McCrory added. "Therefore, it's a win-win for everyone."

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  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Sep 25, 2014

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    You've seen all those missing dog flyers on the telephone poles, right?

  • ScientificMethod Sep 25, 2014

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    Well given that there have only been four pandemics since 1918, odds are you might want to start packing.

  • AmazedAtThis Sep 25, 2014

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    A pandemic is no more likely now than it was 5 minutes before this report. But it sure helps Novartis' stock price!

  • Susan West Sep 25, 2014
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    I bet my house this year or next year there will be a "flu pandemic" reported. For obvious reasons.

  • heard-it-all-before Sep 25, 2014

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    well ironically Novartis is also a huge manufacturer of veterinary medicine... maybe there was a surplus? ;)

  • Mike Berthold Sep 25, 2014
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    Selective editing can make it fit whatever you like. "There's always the risk in the event of a pandemic that the egg supply could be compromised," means that if there ever is a pandemic, not that there is one or even the possibility of one, the primary source of the vaccine may be compromised and the ability to have a second source is justified and understandable. At least to those that understand what redundancy and preparedness mean. If you feel it is a scare tactic because you wish to focus on the word "pandemic", which, by the way, happen more often than you might think and as recently as 2009, then so be it. The rest of the sane crowd will take it for the way it is actually written.

  • stymieindurham Sep 25, 2014

    I take the flu shot EVERY year.
    Having a lazy streak, I didn't take the shot one year and was . . . . . well, sick!!!
    Won't do that again.

  • stymieindurham Sep 25, 2014

    Haaaaa - I personally am glad some of you folks cleaned up this story. I'm not a chemist nor a student of genetics. I honestly questioned myself, where are they going to get all these kidneys based soley on WRAL's comment, " . . . should the egg production supply fail . . . ". Therefore, I thought, how many eggs or kidneys DOES it take???? Thanks-

  • Angie Cox Sep 25, 2014
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    so glad I am not the first to try it... no way!

  • yesplease Sep 25, 2014

    Yes this is some sloppy reporting. What other folks have said about the MDCK cells is correct.

    And for the guy worried about fear mongering: keep your head in the sand.....

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