Biotech & Health

Five Montgomery County BioScience Companies Take Up the Fight Against COVID-19

MBS Staff
Emergent BioSolutions sign in Rockville, Maryland

Emergent BioSolutions sign in Rockville, Maryland. (Montgomery Business Scene)

With the coronavirus moved beyond epidemic to pandemic categorization by the WHO (World Health Organization), the spread of this new virus across the globe along with non-stop reporting from media outlets has disrupted the global economy. The daily lives of people on all over the world are not what they once were.

In the U.S., all 50 States have identified cases of people with COVID-19. The spread of the virus has led to school and restaurant closings, flight cancellations, quarantine of whole cities and a steep stock market decline. It’s basically brought the economy to a hault.

The one path that many people would like to take is finding treatments and vaccines to stop the coronavirus in its tracks. This is believed to bring the world back normalcy.

The list of companies with the ability to create a COVID-19 vaccine relatively quickly isn't long, but Montgomery County has at least five companies in its bounds that are working to defeat the virus and bring our lives back to normal.

All five companies are in the Great Seneca Science Corridor of Montgomery County, an area that stretches from the south in North Rockville to the north in Gaithersburg. Four are biotechnology companies headquartered there, while one is a large phma with very significant operations in the county.

Here's a rundown of these companies and the coronavirus related work in their pipelines,

  • Gaining a lot of media attention from an early announcemnt to develop a coronavirus vaccine, Gaithersburg-based Novavax, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVAX) has a storied history in the county but is getting a massive amount of media attention after it released a report on its progress for what it has called a “novel vaccine” to protect against COVID-19. A couple weeks later, the company announced an initial $4 million in funding from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) towards development.

    Because of its previous experience with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in pre-clinical testing, it believes it can move quickly to find a COVID-19 vaccine. It also helps that it has a proprietary vaccine technology that speeds up the drug development process and can rely on other local biotechs to get the drug out to the public as soon as possible. Novavax’s stock price started the year at a low point of $3.93 on January 10, 2020— it now trades above $17.00 a share, an increaseof more than 300 percent and adding more than $500 million to its market value.
  • You could say Emergent BioSolutions Inc. (NYSE: EBS) is the organization behind the scenes, helping bring drug developments to fruition but it's doing that and more. Not only has the company agreed to manufacture coronavirus vaccines for other companies, but it's working with its Gaithersburg neighbor Novavax to manfacture the COVID-19 vaccine in a joint effort. Emergent id using its hyperimmune platforms technology and work with Novavax to develop a vaccine on an already selected, ideal candidate.

    The biodefense biotech also announced it will would manufacture another coronavirus drug in development for South San Francisco, CA-based Vaxart, Inc. (NASDAQ: VXRT). Emergent has eight drug manufacturing plants, including one in Rockville and two in Baltimore.
  • A third Gaithersburg biotech is working on a coronavirus vaccine. Altimmune (NASDAQ: ALT) is developing a single-dose treatment for COVID-19 that would be administered through the nasal passage. Altimmune wants to leverage its NasoVax technology already in use to develop an Influenza vaccine in Phase II. The biopharmaceutical company is targeting August, 2020 to begin testing.
  • Back in Rockville, Vigene Biosciences is fighting COVID-19 by offering its brand new manfucauring capabilities to other companies trying to develop a vaccine. It recently expanded it’s headquarters to 51,000 square feet at 5 Research court. The company ranked number 410 on the Inc 5000 list in 2019.
  • Big pharma GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) has formed multiple partnerships to create vaccines in order to defeat the coronavirus in the U.S. and China. GlaxoSmithKline's has three global vaccines R&D centers and the only one in the United States is in Montgomery County.

    The U.K.-based company is also working with CEPI, allowing the University of Queensland, Australia to use its adjuvant technology—a system that's supposed to enhance a vaccines immune response and longevity. In China, Glaxo collaborating with Clover Biopharmaceuticals, lending its adjuvant tech in part because Clover owns one of the largest commercial-scale CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations) biomanufacturing facilities in China.
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