BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG said Thursday it has received regulatory approval in Germany for a new swine flu vaccine produced using cell cultures instead of egg-based methods.

Novartis described the approval as a "milestone" and said it is pursuing registration of the vaccine, marketed under the name Celtura, in other major countries, including Japan and Switzerland.

With demand high because of the pandemic, companies are trying to find a more efficient way of producing swine flu vaccine than the slow method of cultivating seed virus in chicken eggs.

The new cell-based technology has previously been licensed in Europe for the production of the seasonal flu vaccine, Novartis said.

"Our modern cell culture technology can enable a faster start-up of vaccine manufacturing, offering the ability to respond more quickly to future pandemic threats", Andrin Oswald, chief executive of Novartis' Vaccines and Diagnostics division, was quoted as saying.

Celtura is currently only produced in Marburg, Germany. The U.S. government has awarded Novartis a $487 million contract to build a second production site in North Carolina, which is expected to be up and running by 2011 or 2012.

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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