Novartis To Beef Up Vaccine Research in Cambridge

Novartis is doubling down on vaccine research. The Basel, Switzerland-based drug giant is announcing today that it is opening a new facility and hiring an additional 150 people by the end of 2009 for a Research Center of Excellence in Virology in Cambridge, MA. That will boost the company’s employment in Cambridge to more than 1,800 workers.

Researchers in the new center will study vaccines for widespread viruses, including HIV, flu, cytomegalovirus, and respiratory syntical virus. The company will hold an opening ceremony today from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm at 45-75 Sidney Street Lawn in Cambridge. Several executives will make appearances, including Joerg Reinhardt, CEO of Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, and Christian Mandl, the site head for the virology center.

The vaccine business, shunned as a backwater for cheap commodities as recently as five years ago, is suddenly booming—and Novartis clearly aims to capitalize on this growing field through its new center. Vaccines generated an estimated $16 billion in sales in 2007. Premium-priced vaccines are back in. Merck’s Gardasil, for a virus that causes cervical cancer, generated $1.5 billion in sales in 2007, its first full year on the market. That’s enough to support quite a few research jobs.

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