Existing vaccine facilities can handle flu pandemic

September 14, 2006

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---The most cost effective and quickest way to respond to a flu pandemic within the next five years is to use existing facilities to make vaccines from cell cultures, new research suggests.

In a study led by University of Michigan professor of chemical and biomedical engineering Henry Wang and doctoral student Lyle Lash, researchers examined the economics of producing egg versus cell culture vaccines in the event of a flu pandemic. They found that training personnel to make cell culture vaccines in existing facilities is the only way to make enough doses to cover the United States in a short time without requiring huge capital investments to build new dedicated flu vaccine cell culture facilities.

The study builds upon research presented last year at the American Chemical Society National Meeting. This research will be also be presented at ACS in the "Economics of Biopharmaceutical Processes" session at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14. The research presented last year focused on how the use of existing cell culture facilities and other vaccine development and manufacturing changes can cut down the time to respond to a pandemic.

Currently, flu vaccines are made from hen eggs, but in light of a possible pandemic and ongoing shortages even during normal flu season, the government and private corporations have been scrambling for new and faster ways to make a flu vaccine. Some options include building new and bigger facilities or to retrofit existing facilities.

The reasons to shift from egg to cell culture production are time and capacity, both of which are critical factors in responding to a pandemic, researchers said. It takes much longer to compile millions of hen eggs than it would to grow up existing cell lines from frozen vials, Lash said. While cell culture has a lower yield than egg culture, there is more existing capacity for cell culture than for inoculating and processing eggs.

"Based on existing dosages, we'd have enough doses in about 3 to 4 months to cover the U.S. with the system we propose," Lash said. Currently, it would take six months to make 250 to 300 million doses of pandemic flu vaccine for the United States. "What we're proposing could make 600 million doses in four months."

There are about 15 facilities in the country that make protein products from mammalian cell cultures where personnel could be trained to make flu vaccines using cell cultures, said Lash.

The expense for companies would be the cost of the downtime necessary to train personnel and to run test batches, researchers said. With research into different processes for purifying the vaccine, it would not be necessary to renovate facilities, he said.

Many companies have been investing in developing cell culture flu vaccines due to government funding and the increase in price of the seasonal flu vaccine, Lash said. Before there became a flu vaccine shortage, one dose cost about $1.60. Now, each dose commands $8 to $10.

This profit margin is still low compared to the profits that existing cell culture facilities can make off their protein products. Lash said for the plan to work there must be some type of government funding to subsidize companies for lost production time due to training staff. Researchers envision a sort of national guard approach, with staff trained and on standby to respond to an pandemic.
-end-
For more on Wang, see: http://www.engin.umich.edu/dept/cheme/people/wang.html

For more on the flu, see: http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2005/Feb05/flu

For ACS, see: http://acswebcontent.acs.org/home.html

The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. Michigan Engineering boasts one of the largest engineering research budgets of any public university, at more than $130 million. Michigan Engineering has 11 departments and two NSF Engineering Research Centers. Within those departments and centers, there is a special emphasis on research in three emerging areas: nanotechnology and integrated microsystems; cellular and molecular biotechnology; and information technology. Michigan Engineering is seeking to raise $110 million for capital building projects and program support in these areas to further research discovery. Michigan Engineering's goal is to advance academic scholarship and market cutting-edge research to improve public health and well-being. For more information, see the Michigan Engineering home page: http://www.engin.umich.edu

University of Michigan

Related Pandemic Articles from Brightsurf:

Areas where the next pandemic could emerge are revealed
An international team of human- and animal health experts has incorporated environmental, social and economic considerations -- including air transit centrality - to identify key areas at risk of leading to the next pandemic.

Narcissists love being pandemic 'essential workers'
There's one group of essential workers who especially enjoy being called a ''hero'' during the COVID-19 pandemic: narcissists.

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Z├╝rich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease.

People who purchased firearms during pandemic more likely to be suicidal
People who purchase a firearm during the pandemic are more likely to be suicidal than other firearm owners, according to a Rutgers study.

Measles outbreaks likely in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
Major measles outbreaks will likely occur during 2021 as an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new academic article.

The COVID-19 pandemic: How US universities responded
A new George Mason University study found that the majority of university announcements occurred on the same day as the World Health Organization's pandemic declaration.

Researchers find evidence of pandemic fatigue
A new study from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology shows that the behavioral responses to COVID-19 differed by age.

Excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic
The full impact of COVID-19 on alcohol use is not yet known, but rates have been rising during the first few months of the pandemic.

How fear encourages physical distancing during pandemic
Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance during the pandemic, many do not.

COVID-19 pandemic and $16 trillion virus
This Viewpoint aggregates mortality, morbidity, mental health conditions, and direct economic losses to estimate the total cost of the pandemic in the US on the optimistic assumption that it will be substantially contained by the fall of 2021.

Read More: Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.