An Auburn-based company, Si02, seems to have resolved one of the main issues that Bill Gates has been speaking on surrounding the fight to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Si02 has received government funding of $143 million in BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) investment money.
Si02 will be able to produce the needed supply of vials so that the vaccine, once developed and approved for widespread use, can be quickly and safely distributed around the world. The BARDA funds will help SiO2 produce an annual capacity of 120,000,000 (10r or 10ml vials). This equates to about 1 billion doses of the vaccine, the company says.
Bobby Abrams is the Chief Executive Officer of SiO2.
“The pandemic presents an enormous challenge for all people,” Abrams explained. “We are extremely grateful for Senator Shelby’s steadfast support and assistance, and we’re honored to collaborate with our government so a COVID-19 vaccine can be safely and quickly distributed. The State of Alabama and the City of Auburn for many years have been very supportive of SiO2 Materials Science during its research, development, commercialization, and now scale-up phases of the company.”
Former Auburn Mayor Bill Ham is currently on the Board of Auburn University’s Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.
“We are extremely fortunate to have SiO2 in Auburn; and are grateful for the integral role Alabama’s prominent U.S. Senator Richard Shelby played in helping the company,” the mayor said. “We are also very appreciative with the early investment in the project by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, who should benefit greatly with their investment.”
“SiO2 is critical to Auburn because the company’s advanced materials science platforms are critical to our nation’s fight against this pandemic and future health threats.” Mayor Ham said.
The company is now beginning to ramp up production of its state-of-the-art vials.
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Vials produced by Si02 Materials Science may be the critical component needed to ensure safety in the vaccine distribution process. The breakthrough technology developed by the Auburn-based company provides a glimmer of hope amidst challenging times and showcases how Alabamians are working diligently to craft solutions that will assist our nation and the world in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, Si02 will create 200 highly-skilled jobs as a result of their grant award, which will benefit Lee County as well as our entire state.”
Auburn-based SiO2, is a privately-owned U.S. advanced materials science corporation. Their state-of-the-art, patented, primary packaging platform will be used for storing vaccines for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and therapeutics.
SiO2’s vials and syringes, which are a combination of a plastic container with a microscopic, thin, undetectable to the naked eye, pure glass coating, provides the safest package for new biological drugs and vaccines. This science is essential to the viability of the vaccine itself.
SiO2 currently employs more than 200 engineers, scientists, and technicians, most of whom live in Lee County and are Auburn University graduates. The company’s 165,000 square foot manufacturing plant is in Auburn. The BARDA grant received significant support from Alabama’s U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R). The investment will help SiO2 create 200 new high-skilled jobs.
The $143 million agreement with the Department of Defense’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) in partnership with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), accelerates the production scale-up of the company’s primary packaging platform.
Dr. Robert S. Langer is an institute professor at MIT and an advisor to SiO2.
“The nation can produce all the vaccines we want, but we must have appropriate containers to store them and deliver them to patients safely,” explained Dr. Langer. “Many drug development and drug formulation innovations can be limited due to variables associated with traditional glass vials and syringes. The SiO2 vials and syringes eliminate these variables and allow drug development partners to bring their innovations to life.”
Essential characteristics of SiO2’s patented materials coating include thermal stability and integrity, chemical stability, a gas barrier, mechanical durability, no breakage, and precision molding.
With a thermal stability range of -196˚C to 121˚C and with a seal integrity down to -80˚C, the SiO2 vials and syringes provide the ideal primary container for therapies in any storage conditions.
Chemical stability allows the product to be safe and suitable for a wide range of drug characterizations, including pH ranges from 3-14; there is no risk of delamination and no metal ions as observed with glass vials.
With a gas barrier, SiO2 vials have gas permeation properties like glass and therefore provide the shelf life and stability required by many therapies. SiO2 vials also can withstand 1,500 pounds of direct force, which potentially saves millions of dollars from breaking on filling lines and minimizes loss in the supply chain; and the vials are shatterproof, making them safe for use by healthcare staff and patients.
SiO2’s syringes are precision molded and up to 15 times more dimensionally consistent than glass, enabling error-free operation with autoinjectors and other drug delivery devices.
SiO2’s patented materials science was developed in Auburn, Alabama over 10 years with the assistance of experts from four major U.S. research institutions: the University of California at Santa Barbara and Berkeley, the University of Chicago, MIT, and Harvard.
Si02’s research team included the participation of Dr. Glenn Fredrickson, one of the most prominent material scientists in the United States.
“The SiO2 vials solve significant challenges in the commercialization of vaccines and biological drugs, which presently cannot be solved by glass or plastic vials,” Fredrickson said. “Bringing this advanced coating to market will enable pharmaceutical manufacturers to safely and more rapidly deploy their critical products.”
“We’re dramatically ramping up capacity to meet customer demands and to ensure that the surge seen due to the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic developments can be accommodated,” said SiO2’s President of Customer Operations and Chief Business Officer Lawrence Ganti.
SiO2’s funding application was facilitated by attorneys Palmer Hamilton and Robert Walthall, partners in the Jones Walker law firm.
SiO2 Materials Science has been managed by the same family for more than 100 years. SiO2 Materials Science is a privately owned U.S. advanced materials science corporation introducing breakthrough disruptive technology.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 419,391 people, including 115,137 Americans (739 of them Alabamians).
Alabama reports record-breaking 2,164 new COVID-19 cases
Thursday’s number of new cases hit 2,164 and blew past the previous daily record set on July 3 by 406 cases.
New COVID-19 cases in Alabama on Thursday jumped by nearly double from the day before, and for the first time broke 2,000 in a single day, according to the latest data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Thursday’s number of new cases hit 2,164 and blew past the previous daily record set on July 3 by 406 cases. Both the seven-day and 14-day rolling average of new daily cases in Alabama were also at record highs Thursday.
Thirty-two percent of the state’s 48,588 cumulative confirmed cases have been added within the last two weeks.
The Alabama Department of Public Health did not publish Wednesday an update to the total number of tests performed, which throws off the day’s figures for the percentage of tests that are positive, but on average, over the last week, the state’s seven-day rolling average of percent positivity has roughly 15 percent.
Public health experts say the percent positivity should be at or below 5 percent — otherwise there isn’t enough testing being done and cases are going undetected.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Wednesday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Wednesday 1,110 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fourth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity Tuesday. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.
Hospitals there were at 80 to 90 percent capacity.
“Our ambulances yesterday had their greatest number of runs since this started,” said Crestwood Hospital CEO Dr. Pam Hudson on Wednesday, adding that in about 20 percent of calls staff is having to wear full personal protective equipment. “That indicates that they are working with patients who have symptoms that could be compatible with COVID.”
Meanwhile, Madison County set a new daily record, adding 286 cases Thursday, the first time the county has surpassed 200 cases a day. The county was largely spared early on in the pandemic, with low case counts and low death rates, but roughly 42 percent of Madison County’s total case count since March has been reported in the last week as 803 new cases have been added.
Jefferson County and Madison County, over the last week, have accounted for 26 percent of the state’s new cases.
Jefferson County led the state in the most new cases Thursday with 343 and has added 1,498 cases in the last week. The county’s total cases increased by 33 percent from last week, and stood at 6,030 confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday.
While Jefferson County and Madison County are seeing the state’s most intense increases, other large counties including Shelby County, Baldwin County and Tuscaloosa County have also seen record increases and rising percent positive rates.
At least 81 people have died from COVID-19 in the last week, and 162 people have died in the last two weeks.
At least 1,042 people have died from COVID-19 since March, and at least 26 other deaths are listed as “probable” COVID-19 deaths.
Alabama Innovation Fund, Auburn support development of saliva COVID testing device
The Alabama Department of Commerce and the City of Auburn’s Industrial Development Board have teamed to award $250,000 in funding to accelerate the development of OraSecure LLC’s breakthrough patent-pending saliva collection device intended to help in the ongoing battle against the novel coronavirus.
Support from the Alabama Innovation Fund and the City of Auburn will help OraSecure finalize the initial manufacturing run needed to begin mass producing its devices and complete validation with the FDA. Production of the devices will take place in Auburn.
“The Alabama Innovation Fund is a key component in our efforts to spark the creation of high-impact ’Made in Alabama’ products by stimulating breakthrough research,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “With this support, we are helping OraSecure speed the development of a specimen collection device that can make a difference in the pandemic response while simultaneously raising the state’s profile in the bioscience industry.”
For more information, see the attachment or click this link: https://www.madeinalabama.com/2020/07/orasecure_saliva_collection_device/
Decatur joins growing list of Alabama cities, counties requiring masks
In a 3-1 vote, the ordinance passed, but it wasn’t clear Wednesday when the order will go into effect.
Decatur City Council members on Wednesday approved a face mask order that will require the wearing of masks in public and while on public transportation, joining a growing list of local municipalities and counties taking up such measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a 3-1 vote, the ordinance passed, but it wasn’t clear Wednesday when the order will go into effect.
The ordinance will require Decatur residents to wear masks while outside, in restaurants or businesses and on public transportation. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $500.
Council members Paige Bibbee, Billy Jackson and Charles Kirby voted to approve the ordinance, and Council member Kristi Hill voted against the measure, according to a video of the meeting.
Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen told Council members before the vote that the area’s hospital intensive care beds are “approaching capacity” and elective surgeries have been cancelled to save room for COVID-19 patients.
The city of Decatur is in Morgan and Limestone counties. In Morgan County, 30 percent of the county’s total COVID-19 cases have come in the last two weeks, while Limestone County added 44 percent of the county’s cases within the last two weeks.
Decatur Council members’ decision Wednesday came on a day when Alabama saw yet another record high number of COVID-19 patients being cared for in hospitals.
On Wednesday, the state added 1,161 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths from the virus. It’s killed 1,032 people in Alabama, the UAB physician said. At least 1,110 people were being treated in hospitals in the state Wednesday, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the most since the pandemic began.
Madison County seeing surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations, ambulance calls
A surge of COVID-19 cases in Madison County troubles the CEO of Crestwood Hospital, who said the public needs to take the virus seriously and do what’s needed to slow the spread by wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Madison County added 66 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, when the county’s total case count hit 1,620. Though Madison County had largely been spared through the early months of the pandemic, with very low case counts and deaths, over the last week, the county has reported 563 new cases — a 53 percent increase.
“Our county cases continue to climb,” said Crestwood Hospital CEO Dr. Pam Hudson, speaking at a briefing Wednesday.
“We have to flatten the curve again,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the percentage of tests that are positive in the county used to be much lower, but are now in line with the state’s current percent positivity rate of 9.92 percent. The percent positivity was 13.52 percent on Wednesday, based on fourteen-day averages of case and test increases. She said the county’s hospitals are very busy.
“We were already busy before we had this uptick,” Hudson said.
There were 1,110 COVID-19 patients being cared for statewide Wednesday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, said there were 163 COVID-19 patients Wednesday in the Crestwood and Huntsville Hospital systems, which is a 31 percent increase from last week.
“There’s no question that these numbers continue to rise,” Finley said.
Hudson said, on average, the hospital is running at between 80 and 90 percent capacity.
“Our ambulances yesterday had their greatest number of runs since this started,” Hudson said, adding that in about 20 percent of calls staff is having to wear full personal protective equipment. “That indicates that they are working with patients who have symptoms that could be compatible with COVID.”
A face mask order for the public went into effect Tuesday in Madison County. Similar orders are in effect in Jefferson County, Montgomery, Mobile, Selma and Tuscaloosa.
Last week Madison County had 500 people who tested positive for COVID-19 and were under active quarantine and being tracked by the Alabama Department of Public Health, Hudson said. On Wednesday that number was 847.
“So things are not all well in our county,” Hudson said. “COVID-19 has gained, and is continuing to gain footholds in our community.”
Hudson said she believes the spike in cases and hospitalizations in the county comes down to people not wearing masks in public, not practicing social distancing and bars and restaurants, which are hotspots for the virus’s transmission.
Hudson reiterated a statement made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, that up to 40 percent of coronavirus cases are caused by someone who is infected and has no symptoms, and one in 10 COVID-19 patients need hospitalization, Hudson said.
“So this is not a nothing disease. Thirty percent of those patients who are hospitalized will end up in an ICU,” Hudson said. “And of those, 30 to 40 percent will die.”
Local hospitals are “bumping up into some challenges” with the availability of ICU beds, Hudson said, and the medical staff is under strain and the threat of becoming infected themselves every day.