Seqirus is taking the fight to influenza and other diseases with life-saving vaccines
For Seqirus the question is not whether the chicken or the egg came first, it’s “How quickly can we turn the egg into a life-saving vaccine?”
Seqirus, one of the world’s largest influenza vaccine manufactures, operates state-of-the-art facilities on three different continents and a globally integrated supply chain for the timely supply of influenza vaccine to customers.
Seqirus utilises both egg and cell-based technologies for influenza vaccine production and have developed the only adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine for elderly populations.
“We have one of the most comprehensive influenza vaccine portfolios in the industry, tailored to the needs of health care professionals and their patients. Each season a new vaccine is produced based on the recommended circulating virus strains decided by the World Health Organization,” Seqirus global head of manufacturing Chris Larkins told VENTURE.
“Planning for each season starts well over a year in advance as we produce our flu vaccines using two different technology platforms, cell or egg. For the egg-based flu vaccines, such as the ones we produce at our Australian site, planning incorporates a complex supply chain and forecast model that also involves us working with our egg supply partners to ensure the breeding of pure-bred chickens at biosecurity-approved farms, to supply enough eggs required to produce the vaccine antigen.”
Seqirus Australia’s Parkville Operation is Australia’s only onshore influenza vaccine manufacturing facility and during peak production times can receive up to 460,000 eggs per day for processing. From the identification of the candidate viruses to be included, through to vaccines being in syringes ready for release takes around 14 weeks.
“The most important aspect of our vaccine is its quality; every batch must pass rigorous quality testing in government laboratories before it can be released for use. Timing to market is also very critical. We have a very small window of time each season to produce, test release, and ship vaccine,” Larkins said. “Being a biologic product, it has a relatively short shelf life compared to other vaccines and we have to keep it between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius at all times. That also adds an enormous amount of complexity to distribution.”
Rising immunisation rates over recent years have seen the forecast for dosage orders triple in Australia, thanks to public health organisations and the government introducing new programs and raising awareness. Vaccination is the best defence against influenza, boosting herd immunity and contributing to lower incidences of illness and death in the community.
Given how the influenza virus can evolve, one of Seqirus’ most important jobs is one it hopes it never needs to be called upon for, but the company stands at the ready nonetheless. From season to season, antigenic drift causes the virus to mutate slightly, which is why there’s a new seasonal vaccine each year. But should a highly pathogenic animal virus such as avian flu mix with the human virus, a pandemic can occur because people don’t have innate immunity to the new strain.
Still, Seqirus is constantly preparing to keep people safe in a worst-case scenario.
“We are always here,” Larkins said. “With our heritage and unique capabilities, along with our global manufacturing network, Seqirus works with governments around the world to support pandemic readiness and emergency response. Our cell- and egg-based platforms and global footprint underpin our commitment to rapidly supply influenza vaccines in the event of a pandemic.”
Products of National Significance
In Australia it isn’t just influenza that Seqirus focusses on. The company also tackles some uniquely Australian problems producing products of national significance on behalf of the Australian Government. Seqirus is the world’s lone manufacturer of a Q fever vaccine and produces a range of antivenoms for some of Australia’s most venomous snakes, spiders, and marine creatures.
“Timing is everything when it comes to antivenoms, and like influenza manufacturing, the production of antivenom is complex. We have a dedicated team in our product of national significance portfolio that know what they are producing helps saves lives, and they work with that front of mind in all that they do,” Larkins said.
Q fever is a national notifiable disease in Australia and is caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans by inhalation direct or indirect contact with infected animals, most commonly cattle, sheep, and goats. “We have manufactured a Q fever vaccine in Australia since the late 1980s. Given the occupational risk associated with the disease, making vaccine available is an important contribution to public health in Australia.”
Under the legacy of its parent company, Seqirus has been involved in influenza protection in Australia since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and today across their global network they continue to research, develop, and manufacture a broad portfolio of influenza vaccines.
“Our vision is a world protected from influenza and every day we are working to help make this happen.”