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Coronavirus

Baltimore scientists to work on third experimental coronavirus vaccine

An experimental corronavirus vaccine will begin production in a facility on the east side of Baltimore later this year, becoming the third potential vaccine involving Baltimore scientists and their labs.

Gaithersburg-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. said Wednesday that it would make a vaccine for the California company Vaxart Inc. Vaxart will then begin testing the tablet-based vaccine to see if it’s safe and it works to prevent infection from the rapidly spreading virus.

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Emergent, which has two Baltimore facilities, reported earlier this month that it would also produce another potential vaccine for Gaithersburg-based Novavax Inc., which it developed in Maryland.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development also is working on a vaccine for the new virus as part of a consortium established by the National Institutes of Health at Emory University in Atlanta to quickly tackle new infectious diseases.

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The Novavax and University of Maryland vaccines are expected to begin testing soon, before the latest Vaxart vaccine. But none of these vaccines or any other in development are expected to be ready for the public for another 12 to 18 months.

Each vaccine, however, uses existing technology enabling them to be developed, go through multiple phases of testing and approved far more quickly than the normal process for new vaccines or drugs.

“We look forward to applying our broad molecule-to-market services, including our ability to work with a multitude of delivery systems, execute under expedited timelines, and meet Vaxart’s potential need for future scalability and large-scale capacity for commercial quantities,” said Syed T. Husain, Emergent’s senior vice president and unit head for contract development and manufacturing.

The coronavirus has caused more than 4,000 cases in the United States of COVID-19, a usually mild but sometimes severe respiratory disease. Every state in the nation now has a case, and there have been 75 deaths. There are no specific treatments for the disease, though those also are in the works.

“I’m pleased that we are joining forces with an experienced manufacturer such as Emergent to help advance our oral COVID-19 vaccine to the clinic,” said Dr. Wouter Latour, chief executive officer of Vaxart, in a statement. “We believe an oral vaccine administered using a room temperature-stable tablet may offer enormous logistical advantages in the roll-out of a large vaccination campaign, and Emergent is a great partner to help in this endeavor.”

Emergent produces its own vaccines and drugs but also is designated a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Bayview facility can produce tens to hundreds of million of doses of vaccines a year.

Emergent also has a fill, finish and packaging facility in the Carroll-Camden industrial area that will be involved in the Novavax vaccine production.


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