A Maryland biotech company developing a vaccine for COVID-19 said its effort received an injection of new support through funding and a partnership that will allow it manufacture its vaccine for testing in Baltimore.
Gaithersburg-based Novavax said it received $4 million in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) as it looks to move toward testing of its vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 1,000 people nationwide and led to event cancellations around the country. The news came as local universities like the University System of Maryland and Johns Hopkins announced plans Tuesday to move classes online.
“The current crisis shows that we cannot prevent all infectious diseases from emerging. But we can and must double down on developing vaccines,” Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said in a statement. “CEPI has moved quickly and urgently to coordinate with global health authorities and vaccine-development partners. CEPI is pleased to be partnering with Novavax to rapidly develop a potential vaccine candidate against the global threat posed by COVID-19.”
The worldwide spread of the virus and corresponding lack of cure has led to conversation about a potential vaccine. Still, officials have said that developing a vaccine could take a year to 18 months, given the need for testing and imperative to ensure that vaccines don’t get healthy people sick.
Novavax said it is currently assessing a vaccine candidate in animal models, and is looking to move into the initial period of testing for safety and efficacy in humans, which is known as Phase I clinical trials, by late spring of 2020.
Novavax said it signed a contract development and manufacturing agreement with Gaithersburg-based Emergent Biosolutions to manufacture the trial vaccine both for the “preclinical” and Phase I testing. Emergent Biosolutions has facilities in Baltimore at Bayview, which will produce drug product, and Carroll-Camden, which will produce drug substance. Emergent was also involved in producing treatments for Ebola and Zika during past outbreaks.
“The increasing threat of COVID-19 requires a comprehensive response and we continue to evaluate various vaccine, therapeutic, and CDMO approaches to enable us to marshal resources to make a meaningful impact on this global public health emergency,” said Emergent Biosolutions CEO Robert G. Kramer Sr.