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As more cases of COVID-19 are being reported and leaders seek tests and treatments, biotech companies are stepping up efforts to develop new tests and treatments.
That includes Maryland, where life sciences companies are working on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. They’re also seeking to share what they’re working on and offer up resources: On Friday, Maryland Life Sciences is putting together a call with more than 15 companies where they’ll look to connect and share needs.
Like many industries, life sciences companies are typically competitive and seek to hold information close, but the crisis is bringing an approach where the leaders of companies look to figure what each has available and determine how they can fill gaps.
“All of those barriers are coming down and the companies are looking to the broader community and thinking, ‘How can we collaborate? What can we offer?'” said Marty Rosendale, who is CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, of which Maryland Life Sciences is a division.
Home to federal institutions such as the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, as well as university healthcare systems known for research such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, the state is home to a base of life sciences companies that brings expertise on different levels from big pharmaceutical players to development and manufacturing companies to startups that spun out of discoveries at research labs.
The effort to develop a vaccine that can immunize against the new coronavirus is garnering lots of attention. A clinical trial from NIH and Massachusetts-based Moderna began in Seattle on Monday, and officials say development is 12 to 18 months away.
Work is progressing locally, as well. In Maryland, Rockville-based Novavax is developing a vaccine, while Gaithersburg-based Altimmune is developing a vaccine that can be taken in a single dose through the nose.
The 12-to-18-month timeframe federal officials have given is faster than the typical cycle it takes to develop a vaccine. Along with the accelerated timeline, there are lots of layers to the process, Rosendale said.
If a company is developing a therapeutic needs manufacturing or fill and finish services, it's important for them to know they can find it in Maryland.
“In order to make that happen you need lab development, manufacturing and fill-finish packing,” Rosendale said. “You need clinical research. You need clinical trials. There are a lot of pieces that have to come together to get it done in 12 to 18 months.”
Each of those pieces are represented in Maryland companies. It was on view when Rockville-based Novavax signed an agreement with Gaithersburg-based Emergent Biosolutions for development and manufacturing at the company’s Baltimore facilities of a version that would be used in human trials. Emergent signed a similar agreement with San Francisco-based Vaxart on Wednesday.
When the call happens Friday, pharmaceutical giants will also be on the line. GlaxoSmithKline, which has a Rockville vaccine development center, offered to share its vaccine adjuvant with others. Pfizer, which is the parent company of Columbia-based Meridian Medical Technologies, also offered to share resources and tools.
There’s also work on testing at places like Germantown-based Qiagen and Zalgen Labs. And there are companies such as Genarraytion and Next Molecular Analytics providing RNA sequencing for COVID-19.
In bringing everyone together on a call, Rosendale said he is looking to make sure that everyone knows each other and about the efforts taking place. If a company is developing a therapeutic needs manufacturing or fill and finish services, it’s important for them to know they can find it in Maryland.
He also said it’s important to take stock of the needs of the community. For instance, if a shelter-in-place order were to be issued in Maryland (which it has not yet), his team would want to ensure that companies developing these treatments be allowed to remain open as essential businesses.
“Should it come to that, we need to be prepared,” he said.
Here’s a full look at the biotech companies in Maryland working on COVID-19, per Maryland Life Sciences:
- Pfizer is offering to share its resources and tools.
- GlaxoSmithKline, which has an R&D center for vaccines in Rockville, has offered to share its vaccine adjuvant with others developing vaccines.
- Altimmune, based in Gaithersburg, is developing an intranasal vaccine.
- Novavax, based in Gaithersburg, is developing a vaccine and partnered with Emergent Biosolutions for contract manufacturing and development.
- Emergent Biosolutions is providing services in Gaithersburg and Baltimore to Novavax and SF-based Vaxart.
- Sanaria, based in Rockville, is working on diagnostics and vaccines.
- Zalgen Labs, based in Germantown, is developing a diagnostic.
- 20/20 Gene Systems, based in Rockville, is importing a CE-marked rapid diagnostic for emergency use in the U.S.
- Children’s National Hospital, based in D.C., is offering clinical research collaborations to regional biotech companies developing COVID-19 solutions.
- Genarraytion, based in Rockville, is providing a validated COVID-19 RNA sequence assay.
- Next Molecular Analytics, which has operations in Rockville and Chester, Virginia, is providing RNA sequencing for COVID-19.
- Pharmaceutics International (PII), based in Hunt Valley, is offering to provide access to a sterile fill and finish operation.
- Asell, based in Owings Mills, is providing expertise with diagnostic development to the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
- Qiagen Labs, which has an operation in Germantown, is ramping up manufacturing of sample processing kits for COVID-19, and adding the new coronavirus to its infectious disease test panel.
- Navitas, located in Rockville, is offering clinical research resources.
- Integrated Biotherapeutics, based in Rockville, is working on vaccines and therapeutics.
- Sequella, based in Rockville, has resources for drug manufacturing.
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