Manifest Boston Stories

Behind the Scenes with MilliporeSigma: Fighting COVID-19

Written by Lindsay Gearheart | Jun 29, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Adjusting to a “changed” life during the COVID-19 pandemic has created much uncertainty, but there are many reasons to be hopeful. One beacon of light is the fact that Massachusetts is a leader in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Our state is home to some of the most established life science companies and greatest innovators in technology, including our world-class hospitals, universities, biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Not only are our frontline workers treating those suffering from the coronavirus, they’re paving the way forward in detection and future prevention.

Burlington-based MilliporeSigma, a global life science business, is one of the powerful engines behind global COVID-19 response efforts. With the company’s dedication to helping solve the toughest problems in life science by collaborating with the global scientific community, the challenges posed by COVID-19 speak to the heart of what it does. 

Vaccine & Therapy Production

The race for a coronavirus vaccine has only intensified as the pandemic has continued over the last few months. With clinical trials for several new proposed vaccines underway, demand is high for products used in vaccine manufacturing.  

When initiating a clinical trial for a vaccine, one of the most important aspects researchers must consider is whether they have the manufacturing platform to develop and provide the therapy. Take the example of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, which has been working on one of the leading coronavirus vaccine candidates since 2019. MilliporeSigma previously worked with the Jenner Institute on developing a manufacturing platform for a rabies vaccine candidate, so when the pandemic hit earlier this year, the Jenner Institute was able to apply that work to accelerate the development of the manufacturing process for this new coronavirus vaccine candidate, reducing a typical six-to-12-month timeline to just two months. MilliporeSigma is also working with Baylor College of Medicine on a similar manufacturing platform. 

Detection & Characterization

Developing effective vaccines and therapies starts with reliable virus characterization. With a large portfolio of biologic reagents and hardware, MilliporeSigma is helping scientists understand viral attachment and entry, viral genomics, and viral proteomics. This helps answer biological questions in viral diseases, of which there are many for a novel coronavirus like COVID-19.

Testing is cited by many as one of the most important steps to fighting this pandemic, with the potential to provide quick identification of patients for resulting treatment and isolation to prevent spread. MilliporeSigma has a role to play in this phase, too. The company provides critical components for the development of diagnostic kits to help with virus detection.

Global Presence

This pandemic is a global issue, and MilliporeSigma’s global presence has aided the critical needs of companies around the world. It created a COVID-19 global taskforce to actively monitor and solve potential disruptions to the global supply chain. This focus on supply continuity ensures its products reach their destinations and that customer needs are met. 

Some of the ways MilliporeSigma has changed its supply chain approach in response to COVID-19 have included increasing stock and activating secondary suppliers, as well as designating dedicated import and export teams to speed the time of receipt and delivery.

Keeping Employees Safe

Of course, safety for employees at all types of businesses is a top priority in the face of this infectious disease. In addition to implementing social distancing and additional cleaning measures, MilliporeSigma is leveraging digital solutions such as virtual customer meetings and online training to protect its 22,000 plus employees. 

Partnering With the Scientific Community

The spirit of collaboration we are feeling within our industries and communities in the face of this pandemic is reflected in MilliporeSigma’s partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) and MIT Media Lab’s Community Biotechnology Initiative (CBI). Together with these collaborators, MilliporeSigma is supporting open science and collective intelligence to crowdsource expertise for pandemic response. 

The initiative began with a three-week exercise collecting data from 180 scientific thought leaders and outlining solutions from the resulting insights. Next up is the launch of the Pandemic Response CoLab, which is a global, open science portal to accelerate science in areas of unmet technical needs. MilliporeSigma is a founding member of this open source science platform operated by MIT CCI and MIT CBI. Additionally, the partners are hosting a series of Pandemic Response Catalyst Conversations, virtual discussions inviting thought leaders from these exercises to examine the technical challenges, data-driven insights, and proposed solutions.

No one knows what the future holds or when this pandemic will end. But with life science leaders like MilliporeSigma innovating the way forward, we can feel comforted that Massachusetts will play a significant role in the detection and prevention of this disease going forward.