Inside Novavax, the Maryland biotech with a promising COVID-19 vaccine

September 25, 2020
Don’t skip your Friday news—we have lots of things you need to know before the weekend. We have a recap of yesterday’s press conference at Novavax with BIO's Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, as well as an update on the House’s clean energy…

Don’t skip your Friday news—we have lots of things you need to know before the weekend. We have a recap of yesterday’s press conference at Novavax with BIO's Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, as well as an update on the House’s clean energy legislation, in around 850 words, 4 minutes, 15 seconds.


Inside Novavax, the Maryland biotech with a promising COVID-19 vaccine

Photo: BIO's Dr. Michelle (left) with Gov. Larry Hogan (center) at BIO member Novavax (Credit: Gov. Larry Hogan)

Yesterday, BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath joined Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for a press conference at Novavax, the BIO member company developing what Gov. Hogan calls “one of the most promising” COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the world.  

Novavax is launching global phase 3 clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, expecting to begin enrollment of 30,000 people in the United States in a few weeks, said Novavax CEO Stanley Erck during yesterday’s press conference.

So far, the vaccine displays four essential characteristics: safety, “potent immune response,” stability, and an ability to be made in high quantities. “If you don’t have all four of those characteristics, you don’t have a vaccine that’s suitable for global supply,” he explained.

Building upon its experience making vaccines for other coronaviruses, the company has partnered with Operation Warp Speed to develop and produce 100 million doses of the vaccine by 2021. 

Novavax is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland—a state that’s home to 500 biotechnology companies including the first to map the human genome, the first to develop a rapid test for Ebola, and the first to get a blood test for colon cancer approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Now, Maryland is playing an “outsized role in the worldwide hunt for a coronavirus vaccine,” with around 40 companies working to research and manufacture COVID-19 solutions, said Gov. Hogan. 

So, when can I get the jab? As Erck reminded the audience, the exact timeline is “impossible to predict” because “it’s all evidence based.” But with manufacturing already underway, Novavax will be ready for rapid distribution if and when the vaccine is approved. 

Dr. Michelle’s Diagnosis: Novavax is a shining example of that unprecedented industry response, that galvanized intellectual capacity, and the ability to put the power of science to healing the world. We at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization couldn’t be prouder of how our companies, our scientists, our entrepreneurs, have really mobilized to change the world.  BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath

Watch the full press conference:

Watch BIO at Novavax

Watch more: WBAL Baltimore, CBS Baltimore, BIOSpace, and WJLA all have more on the press conference and Novavax' vaccine progress.

Listen: Erck recently joined the I AM BIO Podcast to talk about Novavax’ vaccine platform. Get the episode at or your favorite podcast platform, including AppleGoogle, or Spotify.


A step towards more clean energy

The House just passed what The Hill calls a “sweeping clean energy bill” that would boost the development and use of renewable fuels. 

The House approved the Clean Energy and Jobs Innovation Act, a 900-page bill that “would create research and development programs for solar, wind, advanced geothermal energy, and hydroelectric power as well as lessening pollution from fossil fuel production,” among other provisions, says The Hill

Regarding biofuels, the bill “sets a June 1 deadline for refineries to petition for exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard blending requirements and requires public disclosure of which companies are seeking those exemptions,” POLITICO PRO reported

What they’re saying: “It takes actions that scientists, researchers, and experts tell us is needed by launching the research and development needed to unleash a clean energy revolution and reduce pollution in our communities, making a bold down payment for future climate action by modernizing America’s energy innovation infrastructure,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). 

What's the outlook? The Senate introduced similar legislation earlier this year, so the two bills would need to be reconciled if/when the Senate passes their version. However, it’s likely to remain stalled if the Senate focuses its energy (no pun intended) on RBG’s replacement, as Utility Dive explained earlier this week. Furthermore, the White House has indicated it would veto the House package. We'll keep you updated.

BIO’s take: We support legislation that would reduce emissions and advance renewable energy, especially biofuels. We look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate to expand the use and development of low-carbon, sustainable fuels that can help us clean up air pollution and create rural jobs.

Learn more about sustainable biofuels.


More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Biofuels International: New biological platform converts corn fiber into ethanol
“Novozymes has launched Fiberex, a comprehensive platform based on novel enzymes and yeast strains to convert corn fiber into ethanol.” 

Fast Company: These carbon-negative, ocean-degradable straws and forks are made from greenhouse gases
“If the material is made into a disposable fork and ends up in the ocean, it degrades as easily as cellulose, turning into a food source for microbes.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Friday: After a Latinos for Trump roundtable in Florida, he’ll head to Atlanta for an event called Black Economic Empowerment: The Platinum Plan. After a pit stop in Washington to meet with supporters at the Trump International Hotel, he’ll hold a campaign rally in Newport News, VA. Meanwhile, POLITICO calls the health care plan he just released “a series of symbolic pledges and toothless orders."

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Happening now, the House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness. Enjoy the weekend.

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