JP Garnier and his New Flu Vaccine plans: Just Another ‘Stupid Investment?’

You’ve got to wonder about JP and his stewardship of Glaxo. Just when he must have been happy to tie up some bird flu vaccine deals, we learn things may not be so straightforward. This from Ed Silverman at Pharmalot:

Have Glaxo and Novartis stumbled yet again? That’s the question raised in a look at Protein Sciences, a much smaller company using a DNA technology to develop flu vaccines that may prove faster than the methods being used by its much bigger rivals, Bloomberg News reports.

Losing the flu-shot race may be the latest in a series of setbacks for both drugmakers, which are building plants that are part of a $1 billion US initiative to produce millions of inoculations within six months of an outbreak of a deadly flu. But Protein Sciences, with just 40 employees, is close to winning approval for a method that would cut the time at least in half.

Novartis is investing $600 million to build a cell-based flu-shot plant in North Carolina, and has won a $221 million US government grant for clinical trials. And Glaxo, which is getting $275 million in US funding, is building a Pennsvlvania factory in a facility acquired from Wyeth for an undisclosed sum. Both are growing influenza virus in animal cells as an advance over the decades-old technique of making flu shots using chicken eggs.

But cell culture “is an amazingly stupid investment to make for the future,” argues Manon Cox, Protein Sciences’ chief operating officers. “It’s as if we’re still living 100 years ago and recombinant DNA was never developed.”

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