GlaxoSmithKline has acquired a manufacturing facility in the USA from Wyeth, and will invest at least $100 million (€80m) to develop and produce flu vaccines at the site using new tissue culture technology.
GSK said the facility "will be used to help develop the next generation of vaccines," particularly in the influenza field. This is the latest in a series of investments in the vaccines filed at GSK, which last month said it was double production of flu vaccines at its Dresden, Germany manufacturing facility.
GSK has paid an undisclosed sum for the facility, which is located in Marietta, Pennsylvania and has been closed since the end of last year. The 90-acre site will now be used for the secondary production of several new vaccines for distribution in the US market, following approval by the US Food and Drug Administration and the new owners added that the facility has freeze-drying capabilities that will be used to enhance the shelf life and stability of a number of its products.
The move will create around 270 jobs within five years and retain 6,900 existing employees located throughout the world.
GSK chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier said the company expects to develop new flu vaccine technology at the Marietta facility, which "we hope will enhance our future ability to rapidly produce flu vaccines for the nation in response to a pandemic."
GSK further boosted its presence in the vaccines field recently with the acquisition of its long-term US vaccines partner Corixa for $300 million. The company has also just won FDA approval to market its flu vaccine Fluarix, in time for the 2005-2006 flu season.
One of the reasons for rising use of flu vaccines is fear of the next flu 'pandemic' - outbreaks of new flu strains, often passing to man from animals - that historically have hit every couple of decades, killing millions around the world.
The worst outbreak of the 20th century came in 1918-1919, where the strain known as Spanish flu caused 40-50 million deaths worldwide. Less serious outbreaks occurred in 1957-8 (Asian flu) and 1968-9 (Hong Kong flu), but since then there have been none, leading some to speculate that the next outbreak is just around the corner.