HHS partners with major pharmaceutical companies on preparedness grants

The U.S. government recently announced that pharmaceutical companies, including Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG, will receive grants to develop medicines to counter bioweapon threats and pandemics.

The pharmaceutical companies are to work with U.S. universities and smaller biotechnology companies at one of three centers used to develop and manufacture the medicines, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services arranged the partnerships to ensure that sufficient quantities of critical medicines are manufactured within the United States should an emergency occur.

"We anticipate that together, the centers will be able to produce a quarter of a nation's pandemic influenza vaccine within four months of the onset of a pandemic," Dr. Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said, Reuters reports.

Lurie said that in 2009, only one maker of the H1N1 influenza vaccine had a production facility located within the United States.

The majority of the government's initial $400 million grant will be put towards maintaining or expanding existing facilities so that several different types of medicine can be made, and that the facilities can easily switch from one type to another in case of an emergency.

The grants are renewable for a period of 25 years and are being overseen by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at HHS.