July 17, 2020 In the News

Smiths Medical to expand, add jobs in Keene after landing vaccine-related contract

Keene Sentinel
By Olivia Belanger
July 17, 2020

The Keene branch of Smiths Medical is planning an expansion to ramp up the production of needles and syringes to assist in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, the global medical manufacturer announced Wednesday.

Smiths Medical — which is one of three companies helping in the effort — has landed a contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to manufacture 78.6 million syringe-and-needle units.

The federal government will have priority access to the units for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, as well as for flu vaccines and future pandemics, a news release from the Minnesota-based company says.

To complete the order, Smiths Medical says the company is receiving $20 million in federal funding toward a $38 million expansion project at its Keene facility at 10 Bowman Drive.

The Keene location also wants to hire an additional 100 employees to help meet the demand, according to Vanessa Krier, a Smiths Medical spokeswoman.

Krier added in an email Thursday that Smiths Medical is still working out the logistics of the expansion, including when it will happen. She declined to elaborate further.

Researchers around the globe are working to develop a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts estimate a fast-tracked vaccine development could bring an option to market in about 12 to 18 months, according to a report Thursday from the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society.

One vaccine, developed by Moderna Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., is “really quite promising,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as quoted in a Bloomberg News article Thursday.

The vaccine is still in trials, but it produced equivalent antibody levels to what patients who recover from the virus have, the article says.

Smiths Medical’s planned expansion is being funded by the BARDA and the Department of Defense’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, the release says.

The syringes produced will be of Smiths Medical’s design, which the company says offers the lowest dead space — the space between the needle and syringe hub — when compared to other leading hypodermic safety needles. This helps ensure dosage accuracy and less wasted medication, the release says, while helping to prevent needlestick injuries.

In April, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging an increase in the domestic supply chain for syringes, warning that the country was falling behind.

“There is no more important task than the development and delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Shaheen said in a statement Thursday in response to the Smiths Medical news.

“I’m glad that New Hampshire will play a large role in this manufacturing effort,” she added. “I know employees at Smiths Medical stand ready to increase production of these vital needles and syringes and I thank them for their efforts.”