MERIDEN – Gov. Ned Lamont visited Protein Sciences Thursday morning to learn more about a coronavirus vaccine the biotech company headquartered in the city is researching.
Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz toured the company’s facilities on Research Parkway before holding a press conference.
“Protein Sciences is an amazing company,” Lamont said. “It’s part of the healthcare, life sciences, biosciences ecosystem that makes Connecticut unique, and if we can’t get this COVID-19 thing right, nobody can.”
Lamont said the company is “ideally suited” to research a coronavirus vaccine because it has previously been on the “frontline” of developing a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines global business unit of Sanofi, will use previous work for a SARS vaccine developed by Protein Sciences to help develop the COVID-19 vaccine, Sanofi announced last month. Sanofi bought Protein Sciences in 2017.
“They’re ideally suited, which is why the federal government granted them, along with a couple of others, the lead on developing a COVID-19 vaccine,” Lamont said.
The governor cautioned development may take some time.
“Look, you can’t rush these things. I know that we all think, ‘Oh boy, maybe this is going to save the day for us.’ COVID-19 is expanding very quickly. It’s highly infectious, and we’re close to one of the hot zones, epicenters out of Westchester County coming right up through Fairfield Country,” Lamont said.
Protein Sciences officials said their scientists in Meriden have been working for the past several weeks on a possible COVID-19 vaccine they hope may be ready for clinical trials by the end of the year.
Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine. Some are at more advanced stages and could start first-step testing soon.
“We are at the beginning of the stages,” said Mireli Fino, the site head in Meriden. “The first stages are going as fast as we can. The rest of our group is waiting and they are preparing. we're all preparing to be ready for our next stage.”
If all goes well, some initial manufacturing would be done in Meriden, as well.
Lamont’s tour of Protein Sciences Thursday occurred hours before he signed an order barring gatherings of 250 people or more to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order signed also waives the requirement that schools be in session for 180 days, to give districts flexibility with closures related to the virus.
Wire reports were included in this story.