Vigene Biosciences goes big on Maryland viral vector expansion as it rides high on Altimmune vaccine deal
Boosted by a gangbusters year for Rockville-based Emergent BioSolutions and its viral vectors for Covid-19 vaccines, the state of Maryland has continued to cement its place as a hotbed for next-gen manufacturing. Now, a smaller player is looking to build out its own small foothold in the state.
Vigene Biosciences, also based in Rockville, has snagged a public-private partnership with the state of Maryland and its home base of Montgomery County to add 52,000 feet of manufacturing space at its headquarters site.
The state’s commerce department approved a $1.225 million loan to Vigene that’s contingent on “job creation and capital investment,” according to a release. Vigene estimates the addition will bring on 245 new jobs by the end of 2025 in addition to keeping the company’s current staff of 125 employees.
Also, Maryland state approved a $100,000 training grant program for the company, while Montgomery County approved a $125,000 grant also contingent on job creation and capital investment.
The new space will help support the company’s 4,000 clients, Vigene said, including Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Altimmune and its single-dose intranasal Covid-19 vaccine.
The agreement with Altimmune came in July, and details were relatively scarce. Altimmune said at the time it hoped to produce at least 100 million doses of its vaccine in 2021 and was consulting with other manufacturers in addition to Vigene.
Founded in 2012, Vigene focuses not only on gene therapy, but ways to make it affordable, specifically for those with cancer and a series of genetic disorders. Its most notable progress of late in that effort came in February 2020, when it was granted a patent for new technology called “helper vectors”.
Those vectors, the company said at the time, can increase the production of recombinantly-modified adeno-associated viruses which in turn makes their output cheaper since the yield is three-to-five-times higher.
As for Emergent BioSolutions, they inked an initial $628 million deal in June with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed to produce Covid-19 vaccines for Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Vaxart, and has continued to expand its impact in fighting the respiratory virus.
The company now has over half a dozen CDMO contracts for vaccines and antibody hopefuls, which now most notably focus on the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, plus a late-stage Humanigen antibody therapeutic.
Zairen Sun, Vigene CEO