Novartis, Emergent headline $400M HHS plan to combat health threats

Several biopharma players--including Emergent BioSolutions, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis--landed on the winning end of contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and churn out treatments against bioterror and pandemic threats. To fund the first phase of the effort, the HHS has committed $400 million.

The major endeavor strives to set up an infrastructure to rapidly advance from the development, to manufacturing of the countermeasures, including the production of a quarter of U.S. supply of H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine. It will establish three centers dedicated to the cause, and the government aims to have the first facilities up by 2014 and 2015. And small biotech companies are expected to provide new technology to support the program.

Emergent BioSolutions ($EBS), which makes the anti-anthrax drug BioThrax, is leading an 8-year contract for one of the centers, valued at $163 million, joining forces with Michigan State University, Kettering University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, according to the HHS. The HHS also awarded a $60 million, four-year contract to further its support of Swiss drug giant Novartis' ($NVS) vaccine facility in Holly Springs, NC, with collaborators at North Carolina State University and Duke University.

Glaxo ($GSK) is the big name involved in the third center, led by Texas A&M University. Uncle Sam is pumping $176 million over 5 years into the center, which includes contributions from the biologics manufacturers Lonza and Kalon Biotherapeutics.

"Emergent is pleased to enter into this long-term public-private partnership with BARDA to help achieve our common goal of strengthening national security and preparedness efforts," said Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi, president and CEO of Emergent, in a statement. 

The HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is overseeing the centers, which could have their government contracts renewed for up to 25 years, an indication that the HHS wants a long-term way to combat a menu of pandemic and bioterror threats facing the country.

- here's the HHS release
- see Emergent's announcement
- and the Reuters article