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HHS awards flu antigen contract to CSL

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Australia-based vaccine maker CSL Biotherapies secured a contract with the U.S. government to strengthen the country's supply of pre-pandemic and pandemic vaccine antigens in the event of an outbreak.

The contract between CSL and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is worth about $1.5 billion, according to CSL. The Australian speculates that about one-third of the figure will be spent on pre-pandemic planning, with the rest going toward pandemic demand (if one actually occurs).

CSL will manufacture and store antigens that can be used against influenza strains with pandemic potential. The vaccine maker will also be asked to develop virus "seeds" for other manufacturers, and to formulate, fill and finish bulk stored antigen, as requested by the national government.

With fears of a potential pandemic or bioterrorism scare, the deal reinforces the public sector's growing interest in preparedness. But while some countries, notably the U.K., are taking a more hands-on approach in developing vaccines in-house, the HHS turned to a private company in CSL. In June, the agency also awarded about $400 million worth of similar contracts to Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis ($NVS).  

The deal comes one month after CSL secured an FDA closeout letter, after two years of manufacturing issues, which led to several children becoming ill from its flu vaccine. The FDA also took issue with dark particles found in some vials.

- read CSL's press release
- learn more from The Australian (sub. req.)
- get another take from FiercePharmaManufacturing

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