June 12, 2009 / 5:47 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Novartis eyes rapid H1N1 vaccine production

* Results show cell-based production of H1N1 vaccine faster

* More than 30 governments asked for vaccine

* Plans to start clinical trials in July

(Adds details, background)

ZURICH, June 12 (Reuters) - Novartis AG NOVN.VX has produced a first batch of a vaccine to fight the H1N1 flu outbreak, will start clinical trials in July and expects to be able to ramp up manufacture rapidly.

The first results achieved with H1N1 wild type strain showed that it was quicker to make the vaccine through cell-based production compared to egg-based manufacturing, the Swiss drugmaker said in a statement on Friday.

“Novartis has successfully completed the production of the first batch of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine, weeks ahead of expectations,” it said, adding it expects to get a license in the autumn.

“Cell-based manufacturing technology allows vaccine production to be initiated once a pandemic virus strain is identified without the need to adapt the virus strain to grow in eggs, as with traditional vaccine technologies,” the group said.

“This advance has cut weeks off the time required to begin vaccine production,” Novartis said.

The World Health Organisation declared an influenza pandemic on Thursday and called on governments to prepare for a long-term battle against an unstoppable flu virus. [ID:nLB765857]

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said different regulatory authorities need to work together to speed registration of a safe H1N1 flu vaccine, which will not be available before September. [ID:nWLA6459]

Novartis said more than 30 governments have made requests to Novartis to supply them with influenza A (H1N1) vaccine ingredients, which are a combination of pre-existing pandemic vaccine supply agreements and new requests for vaccines across all production platforms including egg-based manufacturing. (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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