Texas A&M biodefense center set to begin countermeasure production

The $286 million Texas A&M University biodefense center, which holds equipment to produce millions of doses of medical countermeasures, is expected to begin making its first vaccine this summer.

When the center is completed in 2017 it will be able to make 50 million flu vaccine doses in only four months, a capacity that biosecurity experts say is needed by the U.S. to prepare for future pandemics, Nature.com reports.

The $440 million program to establish the Texas A&M site and two other biodefense centers by the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services was established in 2012 and includes Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing in Holly Springs, North Carolina, that is being developed by Novartis and a Baltimore center that will be run by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc.

The government expects to spend as much as $2 billion over the next 25 years for medical countermeasures from the Texas site and up to $23 million per year to stockpile flu vaccines.

"We need to be prepared for all hazards, not just the last one that hit us," Gerald Parker, the director of Texas A&M's center, said, Nature.com reports.

Other emerging threats include the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and the Ebola virus.

Additionally, the centers will develop biological agent countermeasures for such potential weapons as smallpox.