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2022-8-8 5:19:09

Russians pioneer flu vaccine manufacture
submited by kickingbird at Nov, 19, 2004 8:46 AM from The Financial Times

A Russian company has taken a lead in the race to manufacture flu vaccine without using chicken eggs.

Petrovax, founded by Moscow scientists, plans to produce 20m doses of vaccine next year at a new factory in Moscow.

It will use a cell culture technology developed by Solvay, the Belgian chemicals and pharmaceuticals group. Petrovax will combine flu antigens produced by Solvay with an adjuvant that it has developed to enhance the efficiency of viral vaccines.

The aim is to improve the reliability of flu vaccine production by dispensing with the use of live, fertilised eggs - a technique sometimes described by scientists as more of a black art than hi-tech.

Fertilised eggs are perfect biological factories for producing the large quantities of the virus needed to produce flu vaccine.

The problem with eggs, however, is the time it takes for the vaccine manufacturers to react if the virus mutates unexpectedly or if a big production centre runs into problems.

For example, when the US earlier this year realised it faced a shortfall equivalent to half its flu vaccine needs, it was too late to start making more.

The technique also overcomes a big problem facing researchers working on a vaccine against avian flu: the virus kills eggs, making them impossible to use in the fight against so-called bird flu.

The virus killed 23 people in Thailand and Vietnam earlier this year when it jumped from birds to humans.

Solvay, one of Europe´s leading conventional flu vaccine makers, said all next year´s production at Petrovax was committed to markets in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

However, the cell culture technique offered the possibility of making new vaccines at short notice.

That could save millions of lives if a new flu strain were to emerge after the start of the conventional production cycle.

The Solvay-Petrovax deal highlights the growing lead of Europe over North America as a producer of flu vaccine even though the US and Canada are the largest consumers, with inoculation rates of almost 100 per cent in some Canadian provinces.

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