For the second time in three weeks I'm at a flu vaccine manufacturing plant today.
Construction isn't finished on the Novartis site yet, but nonetheless they're doing the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony here in Holly Springs, NC this afternoon.
Thankfully, the areas that are done aren't up and running here yet, so when I got a tour yesterday I didn't have to take my clothes off, throw on a jumpsuit and three pairs of booties like I did at Sanofi-Pasteur's ultra-sterile plant recently. A hardhat and safety goggles were all that was required.
The innards of the plant look pretty similar to what I saw at Sanofi. The major difference is that there won't be any eggs here.
Instead, the so-called cell-based vaccine will be brewed in six 1,320 gallon fermenters. After that the purification and fill and finish process is nearly identical to the egg-based method.
And some of the contraptions here are next-generation versus the SNY equipment. For example, Sanofi has a machine with 13 cameras to take photos of filled vaccine vials and syringes from every angle looking for imperfections and impurifications. Here, Novartis has 22 cameras that officials say will snap 101,000 shots per minute. That's not a typo. 101,000 pictures every minute.