Taiwan firm against joint production of H7N9 vaccine

By The China Post | Source: ANN
A major vaccine manufacturer in Taiwan has maintained that it will turn down an invitation by health authorities to hold a meeting with a biotechnology company to discuss development of vaccines against the H7N9 avian flu.

Chan Chi-shean, chairman of Adimmune – in which the government owns a major stake – stressed that the company is committed to developing vaccines to safeguard the nation’s health, but is unwilling to meet with “unlicensed” companies.

The Department of Health (DOH) reportedly has plans to invite Adimmune and Medigen Biotechnology Corp. to a talk about developing vaccines against the H7N9 bird flu, which has the potential to spread to Taiwan from China.

On Thursday it was reported that Adimmune would refuse to attend the meeting.

Chan, a former health minister, said his company has yet to receive an invitation from the DOH, but confirmed that Adimmune will “never show up” at a vaccine development meeting with Medigen present.

He emphasised that if unlicensed companies were allowed to play a role in the H7N9 vaccine development meeting or the drug’s manufacturing, it would eventually lead to disputes, undermine disease control efforts and damage Taiwan’s international image.

On its website, Adimmune has added a message stressing that it is “the only human vaccine manufacturer in Taiwan.”

Dismissing allegations that Adimmune was declining the invitation out of concerns about impacts on its own share prices, Chan said such a view is “too narrow minded.”

The H7N9 vaccine project, whether or not it will materialise, will not have any impact on Adimmune’s revenues, because the firm’s production lines have already been fully booked throughout the end of the year, Chan said. If it needed to produce H7N9 vaccines, it would have to suspend production of other seasonal flu vaccines, he added.

“It’s useless to say anything,” said Stanley Chang, chairman of Medigen, in response to Chan’s remarks.

But he stressed that Medigen will cooperate with the government, and will not see the vaccine project as “business,” according to the United Evening News.

Although Medigen does not have its own vaccine manufacturing facilities, it has been working with the government-funded National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) since 2009. If it is necessary, Medigen can produce vaccines at NHRI’s facilities, Chang added.

The DOH said it will not decide whether it needs to purchase H7N9 vaccines until its vaccination experts meet Thursday.