Multiple Coronavirus Vaccine Tests Underway in Maryland

Centers for Disease Control graphic

About 40 Maryland companies and institutions are working on coronavirus vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Monday. The projects have secured more than $3 billion in funding.

“On the day of our first coronavirus cases, I said that Maryland was home to some of the top health research facilities in the world, and vowed that we would be a part of developing treatments and perhaps even a vaccine for this deadly virus,” Hogan said in a statement. “I want to commend our world-class life sciences community, our universities, and federal research labs for working together to fight this unprecedented global pandemic.”

Maryland’s private sector is a key piece of the research puzzle. Gaithersburg company Novavax obtained more than $2 billion in funding for vaccine development and production.

Operation Warp Speed — the public-private effort launched by the federal government to expedite and secure vaccines — committed $1.6 billion to Novavax’s work. The international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations granted $388 million, and the Department of Defense supplied $60 million.
Hogan says the project is in its late stages. If all goes well, Novavax could deliver 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year, he says.
“We are grateful to be part of Maryland’s collaborative life sciences cluster that, together with the state’s superb academic institutions, is making rapid progress in the fight against COVID-19,” said Novavax President and CEO Stanley Erck. “Novavax’s swift response in developing one of the world’s most promising vaccines for this pandemic is a testament to the value of these close relationships, rich local resources, and government support in effectively addressing pressing public health needs.”
Another Gaithersburg business, called Emergent BioSolutions, is making progress on its own vaccine candidate. Backed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Vaxart and Operation Warp Speed, the research has $1.5 billion in support.

 

“Emergent is proud to be a part of Maryland’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Robert Kramer, president and CEO of Emergent BioSolutions. “Maryland’s life sciences cluster enhances our ability to partner with pharmaceutical and biotechnology innovators.”

A third Gaithersburg company, Altimmune, is teaming up with Rockville’s Vigene Biosciences to create a single-dose, nasal vaccine. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command awarded the duo $4.7 million for the study.

Bethesda-based Longhorn Vaccines and Diagnostics is the state’s final major player in the private sector. The Department of Homeland Security awarded the company $225 million to transport clinical samples to testing labs.

Maryland’s universities have also put millions of dollars toward their own tests. One vaccine hopeful is in phase three of clinical trials at the University System of Maryland.

The school is also developing a remedy to reduce death rates among the sickest patients. The university system is set to receive up to $3.6 million in research grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The funding will help researchers test already-approved medicines with hopes of repurposing them as coronavirus medications.

“It’s in crises like these that you see why Maryland is one of the country’s top biosciences hubs,” University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman said, noting that the school is testing multiple potential vaccines. “There are few states that have the breadth and depth of our life sciences talent, and fewer still that have an ecosystem like ours that thrives on collaboration.”

Johns Hopkins University is also studying the virus. The university allocated $6 million to support a team of 260 scientists working on coronavirus tests. Altogether, the university is running about two dozen projects related to the pandemic.

The school’s most known venture is its global coronavirus tracker. The data dashboard tallies infections from around the world, giving a holistic view of the pandemic.

Hopkins is also running more than 100 clinical studies to develop coronavirus diagnostics. Through a partnership with the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Baltimore university is testing blood plasma from coronavirus survivors as a potential therapy option. The U.S. Department of Defense is funding that research with $35 million.

“It is remarkable to see the extraordinary depth and breadth of expertise being galvanized against COVID from right here in Maryland,” said Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University. “Hopkins researchers are at the forefront of the fight to stop COVID-19.”

To see the story by Jacob Baumgart as it originally appeared on the website of our news partner, Patch.com, click here.