Baxter International, Inc., investigates rapid vaccine producing U.S. facility

Baxter International, Inc., based in Deerfield, Illinois, has begun the investigation process to build a cell-based vaccine manufacturing plant in the U.S.

Baxter joins a host of other drugmakers expressing interest in the potentially lucrative U.S. vaccine market. Increased government subsidies are making the vaccine business, which has traditionally offer little profit, more attractive.

Ealier this weak, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG began the design and construction on a $1 billion cell-based manufacturing plant in North Carolina backed by over $400 million in federal funds. That plant isn't expected to be at full-scale commercial production levels until 2013 though it could produce vaccines in an emergency as soon as 2011.

Both Novartis AG and Baxter's vaccine production facilities will utilize cell-based technology, which will allow the vaccine production timetable to be increased.

Vaccine plants have become a vital option recently as capacity issues have forced governments worldwide to re-examine their vaccine stockpiles. Shortages and rationing of vaccines are currently feared in the event of pandemic viruses.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, a bipartisan group created by Congress that advocates for money for vaccine development, has pushed for as much as $3 billion to be spent this year to enhance the United States' vaccine preparedness. That number is ten times the annual spending currently budgeted.