Area Development
Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics has officially opened a $1 billion state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing plant in Novartis, as part of a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). During a pandemic it could be authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manufacture vaccines for emergency use.

The plant's opening marks the first change in influenza vaccine manufacturing in the United States in 50 years. Specifically, it's the first American plant capable of quickly producing pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines using cultured animal cells rather than fertilized eggs. This new cell-based technology also may be adapted to produce large amounts of vaccines for other emerging infectious diseases.

Located on 167 acres, the Holly Springs site consists of six connected buildings comprising 430,000 square feet of manufacturing, laboratory and office space. Novartis employs about 400 colleagues here, and has plans to expand to 500 workers by year-end 2012.

"The pandemic readiness of this facility is a major milestone in national preparedness for pandemic influenza and other diseases," noted Robin Robinson, Ph.D., director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) associated with HHS. Officials estimate it might be capable of producing one-fourth of the vaccine needed in America during an influenza pandemic. Relatedly, North Carolina State University is working with Novartis and BARDA to educate scientists from around the world about the plant's advanced manufacturing processes. This training should further advance efforts to stem regional and global spreading of deadly illnesses, both known and unknown.