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Novartis opens large flu vaccine plant in US

Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis has inaugurated its first large-scale flu cell culture and adjuvant manufacturing plant in the United States.

The facility, with a cost of almost $1 billion (SFr999 million), is a partnership between the Basel-based company and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Adjuvants are additives that boost the body's response to a vaccine and lowers the dose needed. They are not licensed in the US at present because of widespread public suspicion of new vaccine ingredients.

Novartis explained in a statement that the plant in Holly Springs, North Carolina, was the first of its kind in the US and was a "milestone" in efforts to improve influenza vaccine manufacturing technology in the US and enhance domestic pandemic preparedness.

The facility will use modern biotechnologies for flu vaccine production to replace the 50-year-old egg process.

It is designed to supply 150 million doses of pandemic vaccine within six months of a pandemic declaration and could respond from 2011. and agencies