Governor visits Meriden-based biotech company researching vaccine for coronavirus


MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In Connecticut, a sixth person has tested positive for coronavirus — five of which live in the state — as the state is in a state of a health emergency. Experts warn the worst is still to come, but a Meriden company, Sanofi, is working on a vaccine.

“We are working extremely hard and as fast as possible to develop this vaccine,” said Clem Lewin, Sanofi.

Lewin, who works with Sanofi, the parent company to Protein Sciences, showed Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz around the lab Thursday. Everyone had to wear protective gear including white lab jackets.

“Sanofi is on the front lines of the important coronavirus research,” said Bysiewicz.

“This is a building that is dedicated to protecting people’s lives through safe vaccines,” Lamont said.

The biotech company got a call four weeks ago from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the federal government. BARTA needed help discovering a vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists said the virus is genetically similar to SARS, which Protein Sciences created a vaccine for back in 2003.

As lab work advances, the goal is to develop a new vaccine soon. Sanofi officials would not commit to a timeline as federal approval for any vaccine plays into the equation.

They did reveal that Protein Sciences has the capacity to manufacture 600 million doses of vaccine at one time, and are ready when a vaccine is approved.

“The sense of urgency is felt and we are accelerating and we are working together to come up with a solution,” Lewin said.

Will an eventual vaccine be given like an annual flu shot? Scientists said they are trying to work all of that out.

Lamont firmly believes that if Protein Sciences can’t get this COVID-19 vaccine right, nobody can.

Vaccines are usually grown in chicken eggs, which takes time. Protein Sciences makes vaccines without eggs. Scientists said it is faster and right now everyone agrees time is of the essence.

Another Connecticut company, Farmington-based CaroGen and scientists from Yale have begun work on a vaccine too.

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