Montgomery County’s unique biohealth and life science organizations are working to test, beat and cure COVID-19

This content is provided by Clark A. Kendall of Kendall Capital in Rockville, MD.

While COVID-19 has thrown the world into an uproar, there’s been a slim silver lining for Maryland. Thanks to a robust group of biohealth and life science organizations, Montgomery County has a unique opportunity to help people nationwide — and worldwide — in the fight against the disease.

As a resident, you may not realize just how much Montgomery County does to help in biohealth across the country.

To start, there is the National Institutes of Health, which hardly needs an introduction, what with its many contributions to medicine throughout the world for more than a century. Just in April, the NIH launched the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines partnership to coordinate — and hopefully accelerate — research on a vaccine.

Montgomery County is also just down the street from Johns Hopkins, which has been the backbone of COVID-19 data tracking since January.

Among the biggest and most hopeful recent news surrounds Novavax, a vaccine development company headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with additional facilities in Rockville, Maryland and Uppsala, Sweden. The Maryland-based company, which has never brought a product to market before, just made the biggest deal to date with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. The federal government will pay the vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of next year.

Additionally, many businesses along the I-270 biotech corridor are working on testing and vaccine development. Here are just a few that the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation has highlighted:

  • AdvaGenix is producing self-administered oral swab tests with a 48-hour turnaround, which is a game-changer for essential frontline workers in hospitals and nursing homes around the country.
  • Sanaria is partnering with the University of Maryland and Germany’s University of Tübingen to work on antibody testing.
  • GlaxoSmithKline and its research and development vaccine center has “offered to share its vaccine adjuvant with others developing vaccines,” according to Rockville Economic Development, Inc.

There are many other organizations doing the critical work of research and development in the fight against COVID-19 which bring profound economic opportunity to the area.

For example, in June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expanded an existing contract with Emergent BioSolutions “to advance manufacturing capabilities and capacity for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as well as therapeutics,” HHS says.

The HHS reported that the task order is worth about $628 million, which Rockville Economic Development, Inc. estimates will bring north of $85 million into Emergent BioSolutions’ local manufacturing location and two locations in Baltimore.

This one task order alone will bring more high-paying jobs into Montgomery County’s backyard. Multiplying that by all the other companies and their revenue means an expanded tax base, which also means an ability to expand local services for underserved communities in the area. For any locals still disappointed that Montgomery County didn’t land Amazon, this can help put that impact into perspective.

The fact is, the area has brought together hundreds of the brightest minds in medicine. With new information coming at warp speed, Montgomery County’s biotech corridor is uniquely positioned to lead the charge against COVID-19.

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