Two Maryland Biotechs Partner to Bring Coronavirus/COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate into Clinical Trials

Emergent BioSolutions and Novavax, both headquartered in the BioHealth Capital Region, announced today a partnership to bring Novavax’s potential COVID-19 vaccine to the clinic. The companies have structured their collaboration anticipating the start of Phase I clinical vaccine trials to start in the late spring of 2020. Under the terms of the partnership, Emergent will produce the experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate for Novavax with funding support via the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). This funding brings CEPI’s total investment to $23.7M for Coronavirus/COVID-19 research for a vaccine. 

“Emergent is pleased to be in a position to offer our molecule-to-market contract development and manufacturing  (CDMO) services from our integrated network to support fellow innovators seeking to address this growing unmet medical need. We have a demonstrated ability to rapidly deploy capabilities, capacities, and expertise to support multi-product development and manufacturing as a part of our manufacturing operations network,” said Syed T. Husain, Senior Vice President and CDMO Business Unit Head. “Maryland is teeming with talent and innovation; Emergent’s presence in the region includes six sites with more than 700 employees dedicated to our mission – to protect and enhance life – and we are proud to call it home,” he added.

Emergent BioSolutions and Novavax will combine forces, utilizing Emergent’s molecule-to-market contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) services to advance Novavax’s vaccine candidate, created by an all female team of researchers. The Novavax team created the potential coronavirus vaccine using its proprietary recombinant protein nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens derived from the coronavirus spike (S) protein. Novanax will also use its proprietary Matrix-M™ adjuvant in combination with its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enhance immune responses.

To advance the potential coronavirus vaccine into the clinic, Emergent is rapidly deploying its robust and integrated clinical, commercial and manufacturing network, which includes the company’s Gaithersburg location as well as two facilities located in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Emergent press release, “Drug substance will be produced at the Baltimore/Bayview location, which is designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM), while drug product will be produced at the Baltimore/Camden location.”

“Novavax worked over many years to develop our proprietary nanoparticle vaccine platform and our dedicated scientific staff have rehearsed its deployment for the very type of scenario that we have with COVID-19,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and CEO, Novavax. “We are encouraged by the results of our efforts to-date and are confident, based on our experience developing candidate vaccines for SARS and MERS, that we will be able to advance a viable candidate vaccine. CEPI support is vital to these efforts and we are grateful for their support. Our location in Maryland is helpful, providing quick access to leaders at NIH and the federal government as well as a set of highly skilled scientific, development and regulatory employees and talent pool.”

This critical collaboration between Emergent and Novavax is further evidence that the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) is playing a crucial role in COVID-19 vaccine research, development and distribution. The region is perfectly positioned to be at the forefront to advance a coronavirus vaccine as it is the home to a host of leading vaccine companies with state-of-the-art biomanufacturing capacity, all in close proximity to government research facilities, major research universities and a deep, integrated life science support infrastructure. 

As the coronavirus spreads across the globe and within the U.S. — there are currently 116,146 confirmed cases and 4,088 total confirmed deaths — it’s essential to remain informed, stay calm and follow the instructions of reputable sources of information like Johns Hopkins and the CDC. 

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