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As deal announced for potential COVID-19 vaccine, Lamont highlights Pfizer's work in Connecticut

Groton — On the day of a major announcement that the federal government agreed to purchase 100 million doses of a vaccine that Pfizer is working to develop, Gov. Ned Lamont and Pfizer emphasized the company’s strides, including at its Eastern Point Road campus, in the fight against COVID-19.

At the Groton labs, scientists and experts are working on safety studies for the potential vaccine, along with regulatory coordination and other work, according to Pfizer.

“I am so proud that Pfizer is right here in Connecticut and taking the lead on finding a possible solution to this COVID crisis,” Lamont said at a news conference at Pfizer.

Pfizer representatives, local officials and the region’s legislative delegation also attended the conference, with many wearing masks that said, “SCIENCE WILL WIN.”

Pfizer is partnering with BioNTech to develop a potential vaccine on an expedited schedule, with preliminary study data showing a good immune response for vaccinated patients, said John Burkhardt, the site head of Pfizer’s Connecticut Laboratories and senior vice president and head of global drug safety research and development.

A large-scale clinical trial involving 20,000 to 30,000 patients is slated to begin before the end of the month, with the hope of having a regulatory submission by the end of October, Burkhardt said. If the vaccine is successful and receives U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the product could be available before the end of the year. The companies will recruit people who represent a diversity of ages, ethnicities and genetics to participate in the trial, he said.

Under the contract announced Wednesday, the United States would pay $1.95 billion for the first 100 million doses of the vaccine, if it meets FDA approval, with the potential to purchase an additional 500 million doses, the Associated Press reported. Several other companies also are working to develop vaccines.

Lamont said that while the announcement is “not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” and Connecticut will have to make sure it follows the protocols that make the state one of the best in the country in terms of having a low infection rate, “it gives us hope that science is going to lead us the way past this.”

Pfizer also hopes to begin clinical trials in the third quarter of this year for a potential treatment of COVID-19 that could be given intravenously to patients hospitalized with the disease, Burkhardt said.

The labs in Groton “have been supporting clinical trials through an experienced team of scientists and experts working on safety, design, formulation, global supply and procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine and therapy response efforts,” he said.

He said the work will be a collaboration among Pfizer sites.

“Together we hope to really change the course of this pandemic,” Burkhardt said. “We believe that science will win.”

City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said the announcement represents another example of the relationship and partnership that Groton has with Pfizer and “we will solidify that this facility in Groton is the R&D center of excellence now and for years to come.”

In a written statement, state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said, “This is truly outstanding news which gives us all reason for hope and optimism, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Because when you see, hear, and think about the name ‘Pfizer’, you think of innovation. You think of a dynamic team of the world’s top scientists who work right here in Groton.”

k.drelich@theday.com 

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