Novartis said Tuesday that it would invest $600 million to build the first plant in the United States to develop flu vaccines using advanced cell-culture techniques.
The Swiss drug maker's investment comes as companies rush to develop faster techniques for making flu vaccine as the specter of pandemic avian flu looms.
The new cell-culture techniques would replace the 50-year-old vaccine technology that required fertilized chicken eggs and six months production time.
The plant would be based in Holly Springs, N.C. Construction is expected to begin in 2007.
Novartis' $600-million investment includes a recent $220-million award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department distributed a total of $1 billion in grants in May to vaccine makers working on producing vaccines more quickly using cell cultures.
Once the Holly Springs site is completed and approved, Novartis said it would produce as many as 50 million doses of seasonal trivalent flu vaccines for use in the U.S.