Solvay Pharmaceuticals has been prominent in the area of influenza vaccines for more than 50 years now. With our Influvac® we are one of the world’s biggest influenza vaccine producers. Influvac® was introduced on the market in the early fifties of the last century. Since 1983 Influvac® is a sub-unit vaccine. This means that it contains only those parts of the influenza virus that are needed for effective vaccination. Influvac® contains purified surface antigens, haemagglutinin and neuraminidase prepared from certain selected strains of the Influenza virus and distributed by the WHO, on the basis of their latest recommendations.
Influvac® is used in more than 50 countries worldwide and over 200 million doses of Influvac subunit have been sold to-date. Influvac® has a good reputation by its proven safety and efficiency. Influenza vaccination is the most effective measure for the prevention and control of Influenza.
Solvay Pharmaceuticals is further expanding its current influenza vaccine portfolio. We have acquired the rights from Berna Biotech for the development and worldwide marketing of a virosomal influenza vaccine, Invivac®.
Virosomal vaccines lead to stimulation of cellular immunity, which is important for the recovery process after an influenza infection in the elderly.
Virosomes stimulate B lymphocytes of the immune system to produce antibodies but also have the potential to stimulate T-cells. This broader immune response is important for the protection against influenza-related diseases. T-cells recognize and eliminate infected cells and are therefore important for the recovery process after an influenza infection. Elderly people may have a weakened immune system, therefore T-cell stimulation by the virosomal vaccine Invivac® may be beneficial for the elderly. Invivac® has a very positive safety and tolerability profile. We recently obtained European approval for Invivac®.
INFLUVAC® Cell Culture
For the production of our Influvac® we are dependent on millions of chicken eggs each year. Solvay Pharmaceuticals has been early in recognizing the urgency for an alternative production method to become less dependent on the availability of chicken eggs. From our own research & development we have developed an alternative production technology making use of mammalian cells. These cells are cultured in our own facilities. We obtained a market authorization for our cell culture based subunit influenza vaccine in the Netherlands in 2001.
Market introduction of Influvac® TC is expected in the near future.
We have built a state-of-the art production plant for this new technique. In this new facility production can take place under Bio Safety Level 3 conditions. This means there is no risk of infecting the environment or the employees. Production with a wild-type virus strain is possible. This new technology offers the prospect of starting production quickly after the pandemic strain is isolated. There is no need to wait for specially prepared seed viruses. All materials for vaccine production are on stock, so there is no dependence on specially prepared chicken eggs. Especially when the pandemic strain is of avian origin this may be a crucial advantage and may make the difference between life and death for many people in the world.
In the coming years, the influenza virus may change dramatically and unexpectedly resulting in the appearance of a new influenza virus to which few (if any) people are immune. If this new virus spreads easily from person to person, it could quickly travel around the world and cause increased levels of serious illness and death, affecting millions of people. This is called an influenza pandemic.
In the 20th century, the greatest influenza pandemic occurred in 1918 -1919 and caused an estimated 40–50 million deaths world wide. Epidemiological models project that today a pandemic is likely to result in 2 to 10 million deaths globally. Statistically, influenza pandemics occur every 30-40 years. As the last serious one was in 1968, we might be running out of time.
Pandemic preparedness can only be achieved by collaboration of all stakeholders. Partnerships between public and private stakeholders have successfully been created at international level. Solvay Pharmaceuticals plays an important role in a number of international organizations:
- Influenza Vaccin Supply (IVS), a specialized group within the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). This group has been created in February 2002 to assist business leaders in vaccine companies in making necessary decisions to ensure adequate capacity to produce and distribute influenza vaccine in interpandemic and pandemic years;
- European Vaccine Manufacturers (EVM ), a specialized group within the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). EVM was established in 1991 in order to promote a favorable climate for expanded vaccine protection and improved vaccine coverage in Europe, and to help sustain the innovative R & D capability of vaccine manufacturers in Europe.
New generation of flu vaccines in Russia
Solvay Pharmaceuticals and Petrovax Pharm have concluded a cooperation contract to build a plant to produce new generation influenza vaccines close to Moscow. These vaccines will combine antigens produced by the new technology developed by Solvay Pharmaceuticals at Weesp (Netherlands) with an adjuvant developed and patented by Petrovax’s founders. The new vaccine is intended initially for Russia and for other countries of the Community of Independent States (CIS). This agreement marks a major geographic extension of our vaccine activity, contributing the protection of increasing numbers of people.
Please visit our website http://www.solvay-influenza.com for more information.