Merck & Co has joined a coalition to build a vaccine facility which is capable of simultaneously manufacturing multiple products and can quickly switch in response to a crisis.
Bioterrorism and pandemic influenza have increased scrutiny of biosecurity in the US and the coalition, called 21st Century Biodefense (21CB), expects the government will allocate funds to ensure the nation is protected.
21CB will compete for this funding and use it to build a vaccine development and production facility. The plant would operate as a public-private partnership under the direction of the federal government, helping to keep production focused on threats to biosecurity in the US.
Discussing biosecurity President Obama outlined plans to create “a business model that leverages market forces and reduces risk to attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry collaboration with the US government”.
It is unclear exactly how and when this plan will be implemented. Consequently, 21CB is yet to establish a timeline for the vaccine facility but expects its initiative will create 1,000 jobs directly.
Non-profit health enterprise UPMC established the initiative and recruited GE Healthcare, Merck, Battelle and IBM. Merck will provide drug development and bioprocess advice, as well as training for facility staff, as part of a consortium of biopharmaceutical companies 21CB plans to establish.
The other partners each have expertise in specific areas of the operation. For instance, GE’s production equipment, consumables and manufacturing processes will be used at the site. In addition it will support the project with manufacturing design and developmental expertise.
Earlier in development Battelle is providing preclinical and other research services, such as product safety and efficacy evaluations to support submissions to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
All these operations will be supported by IT infrastructure from IBM. 21CB claims the system will be able to handle very large volumes of data and scale quickly to shifts in demand levels.