Battelle, IBM, Merck join UPMC's effort to produce vaccines

The $8-billion non-profit integrated global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, UPMC, (formerly University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre)yesterday said that it has been joined by the world's largest independent researcher Battelle, IBM and Merck & Co Inc, in a first-of-its-kind initiative to establish a flexible vaccine development and production facility.

UPMC is one of the leading nonprofit health systems in the United States and operates 20 academic, community, and specialty hospitals and 400 outpatient sites, employs 2,700 physicians.

These industry and non-profit leaders are supporting UPMC and GE Healthcare in pursuing the construction of this facility, which UPMC proposes to operate in a unique partnership with the federal government in the US.

''With this powerful coalition of partners, we will finally address a critical gap in the nation's defenses against bioterrorism and infectious diseases,'' said Robert J. Cindrich, UPMC's chief legal counsel and chairman of the initiative, known as 21st Century Biodefense (21CB).

''Through this collaboration, we are poised to deliver the urgently needed advances in vaccine development and manufacturing as recently called for by President Obama in his State of the Union address.''

Battelle, the world's largest, independent research and development organisation, will provide comprehensive pre-clinical research and development services, including infectious disease model development and product safety and efficacy evaluations in a good laboratory practice (GLP) environment.

These services will support the licensure of new vaccines and therapeutics by the US Food and Drug Administration. Battelle also will provide project management support and senior leadership to 21CB's advisory board. ''We are committed to solving the most critical problems in human health and stand ready to be a full partner in this impressive public-private initiative,'' said John Wade, vice president for Battelle.