Local News

RTP company may have leg up on being first to market

13 trump azar fujfilm 1024x683If Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine gets approved, manufacturers in North Carolina hope to have millions of doses already prepared and immediately ready to immunize residents.

Fujifilm Diosynth, a Japanese contract drug manufacturer, is making the main component of Novavax’s potential coronavirus vaccine in Research Triangle Park. The manufacturer is stockpiling vaccine ingredients to prepare for the day the vaccine could be approved, says Marin Meeson, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth.

The federal government has invested $1.6 billion in the little-known Maryland company Novavax — the largest deal yet from Operation Warp Speed, the federal push to mass produce coronavirus vaccines. The operation aims to make 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available to the public by January. It has poured nearly $4 billion into six potential vaccines.

If Novavax’s vaccine proves successful, the federal government will own 100 million doses, enough to immunize at least 50 million U.S. residents.

“America will develop a vaccine very soon, we will defeat the virus. We’ll have it delivered in record time,” President Donald Trump said before touring Fujifilm Diosynth’s facilities in North Carolina on Monday, July 28.

According to the World Health Organization, Novavax is in an earlier phase of testing than at least seven of its competitors. Novavax’s vaccine candidate is about to finish the first of three clinical trial phases.

“We should have a considerable amount, multi millions of doses available by the time that the vaccine is proven effective,” Meeson told Carolina Journal about the manufacturing process. He says his staff are doing the work of months in just weeks.

In May, Novavax began testing the vaccine in 130 people, and researchers anticipate reporting the preliminary results by the end of July. They expect to advance to Phase 2 in August, and to begin the final Phase 3 sometime in the fall.
“This is being developed at warp speed,” Novavax said.

Across the world, researchers are chasing more than 164 COVID-19 vaccine candidates, but only 25 vaccines are being tested in humans. Five vaccine projects are in the final phase of testing. Two of those five projects are based in China, and another is tied to Britain and Sweden. An Australian company is also in the final stage of testing a tuberculosis vaccine to determine whether it can protect against the coronavirus.

So far, Moderna is one of two U.S. companies to reach the final trial.

Moderna this week launched its final trial to enroll 30,000 people across the county. The Trump administration has also struck an agreement with Pfizer, a company based in New York City working with companies based in Germany and China. Pfizer began its third trial Monday, July 27.

Experts hope Novavax offers a faster way to manufacture coronavirus vaccines. Moderna’s candidate relies on fragile RNA molecules, and it must be stored in sub-zero temperatures — complicating rollout in rural areas and scattered populations. Novavax declined to comment on the storage of its vaccine candidate.

Novavax hopes to provoke an immune response with coronavirus proteins.

Fujifilm Diosynth makes coronavirus proteins by using moth cells as factories. This offers a quicker way to mass produce vaccines than the mammal cells employed by normal vaccines.
This could save critical time in vaccine distribution, says Meeson.

“It is a few days shorter, the process. Once we start ramping up the manufacturing, it will be an advantage for us,” Meeson said. “You need to grow the cells, the virus, and that takes time. When that’s a little bit quicker, that means we can do more. … It’s not a massive difference, but it certainly will help.”

The federal investment marked a dramatic change in Novavax’s fortunes. A year ago, the company was fighting financial collapse. One of its major vaccine candidates failed twice in three years. The company sold off its manufacturing facilities, and its stock fell so low that it risked being taken off the NASDAQ electronic stock exchange, reported the New York Times.

After 33 years of business, Novavax has never brought a vaccine to market, the Times reported.

If researchers can develop a vaccine by the end of the year, or within a 12- to 18-month timeline, it will shatter the normal timeline to develop vaccines.
“It’s normally nine to 12 months before we’d start making products at this level, and we’ve started this process in a matter of weeks,” Meeson said.

Arts Council grants total more than half a million dollars

11 19 WATA Logo 011Eighteen local nonprofit organizations are recipients of Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County grants, totaling $571,500, for 2020-2021. Three large nonprofit agencies in Cumberland County, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and the Cape Fear Botanical Garden received substantial financial awards. Cape Fear Regional Theatre — $225,000; Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra — $121,500; Cape Fear Botanical Garden — $90,000.

“As we all navigate through this pandemic, it’s imperative that we lessen the economic fallout many organizations and nonprofits are currently experiencing,” said Bob Pinson, interim president of the Arts Council. “Now more than ever, the Arts Council will continue to support the arts community through our various granting programs as we adapt to our new environment.”

Grant funding is received from the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the Cumberland County Occupancy Tax. State funds are provided through a grant from the Grassroots Arts Program of the North Carolina Arts Council. Additional funds are provided through the support of individual donors.

Community within: Harmony at Hope Mills

15 01 HarmonyHarmony at Hope Mills, a local senior living center, is a community-oriented environment that has been in operation since February 2019. It offers assisted living and secured assisted living services to seniors and has met and exceeded the needs of those who benefit from their services.

The company was founded in 2005 by Jim Smith. Under the guidance of Smith and William Holmes, executive vice president of development and construction for Smith Packett Med-Com, it expanded the occupancy and operated The Village at Pheasant Ridge. Through this experience, Smith saw the opportunity to create Harmony Senior Services and seized it, laying the groundwork for what would become the Harmony Communities.

Harmony at Hope Mills came into existence through Smith-Packett contracting a purchase of an existing 80-bed Certificate of Need license and another existing 20-bed CON in 2016.

15 02 roundtable discussion“SP also commenced construction of the community in July of 2017 and obtained a Certificate of Occupancy in September of 2018. Shortly thereafter, Harmony Senior Services opened the community as the operator,” said Holmes.

The benefits of living at Harmony are numerous. The parent company of the organization decided to put a location in the Cumberland County area because, according to a demographic study, the location is close to seniors or relatives of seniors and it’s a highly desirable location.

Harmony at Hope Mills stands out from other assisted living centers partly by making it easier for the residents to adjust from living on their own to living at Harmony. Even though this can be difficult for some, Armstrong says, “when they tour our community, they experience how bright it is — and clean. Also, all the living spaces in the assisted living neighborhood are apartments ranging from studio to 2-bedroom. It feels very much like independent living.”

There are many benefits to to assisted living in comparison to nursing homes. Many of the residents no longer live at home, and the residence helps meet the needs of the residents that would go unfulfilled if they stayed alone. According to Melannie Armstrong, the director of sales and marketing at Harmony at Hope Mills, some of the residents who come to the center were likely not taking meds properly, eating right, having visitors and bathing properly. In addition to helping with these necessities, this retirement community provides memory care services.

In assisted living, residents have more freedom to do activities that they are interested in than they might if they lived in a nursing home or if they lived alone as some activities are less accessible. From afternoons filled with artistic fun to wine and cheese with friends, Harmony offers life’s little luxuries for its residents. Additionally, the convenient location of the facility makes favorite locations among locals, like Cape Fear Regional Theatre and Cape Fear Botanical Garden, just a hop, skip and a jump away.

One of the activities at Harmony at Hope Mills that differentiates it from the other retirement communities is the community roundtables they host.

“Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Harmony partnered with the town of Hope Mills and Up & Coming Weekly to host a series of community roundtables at the Harmony complex,” Bill Bowman, the organizer of the roundtable discussion, said.

“This event allowed the community to meet with local Hope Mills officials to discuss the important issues of the community while showcasing Harmony’s complex and the amenities it offered the community,” he explained. “Harmony has definitely established itself as a dedicated supporting business and a refreshing home away from home for many Hope Mills residents.”

The benefits of doing these events are that they are great for networking and allow seniors to be immersed in the culture of Hope Mills.

“It’s important that our community create alliances and relationships with the businesses and officials of the city,” said Armstrong.

According to a 2018 report from the United States Census Bureau, there will be more seniors than children by the year 2035. As America grays, the need for facilities that will deliver on their promises and properly care for seniors, especially those in need of more assistance, is evident. This community does just that.

Harmony at Hope Mills has been in operation since its establishment and continues to serve and cater to the needs of every senior that lives in the assisted living facility within their local community. This retirement community has met and exceeded the needs of those that are benefiting from their services by ensuring that they are comfortable with where they are living along with providing transportation to their medical appointments. This is a community that cares about its residents and has adapted its services to meet its residents’ needs. Harmony is a choice that, locally and nationwide, is tried and true.

Fayetteville Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area expanded

12 cumberland hoke harnett map 2Fayetteville’s Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area has been expanded for the first time in modern memory. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently announced that the Fayetteville metropolitan statistical area has been augmented to include Harnett County. The MSA was originally comprised of Cumberland and Hoke counties. This change has increased the total Fayetteville MSA population to 526,719, up by nearly 30 percent. According to the U.S. Census, Fayetteville is now ranked as the 108th largest MSA in the U.S.

“Cumberland County plays a central role in southeast North Carolina. It is home to three major universities and a community college, as well as home to Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the world and home to the Woodpeckers, a Houston Astros affiliated Class A Advanced baseball team,” said Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. “We also have a solid workforce ... with much to offer those businesses that might choose to come to this region. As the sixth-largest city in the state, there is a deep connection between Fayetteville and the neighboring counties through commerce, employment, health care and leisure activities.”

Large companies often consider MSA size and workforce numbers in the search for new locations. These factors are key in the early stages of site selection, and for Fayetteville, this change reinforces the community as a commerce center. Located on the I-95 corridor, this new data illustrates that Cumberland County is drawing workers from up to an hour away. “Fayetteville’s MSA expansion will increase competitiveness for economic development projects and enhance the marketing and promotion of the region,” said Andrew Pennink, chairman of Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation.

The city and county regularly compete against larger MSAs when recruiting businesses that are looking to expand or relocate. This change will more accurately reflect the community’s size and increase its chances of success. An MSA is a geographical zone with an urban center of 50,000 residents or more that has close economic ties throughout the adjacent counties. The OMB determines MSA size and mandates that each member county show 25 percent more of economic integration with the urban center.

Increasing an MSA size can position a community to receive additional federal funding, increase the amount of economic information developed by private and nonprofit statistical agencies and raise the visibility for national or multistate site selection searches. “We believe Cumberland County draws in more people than shown, and we are proactively participating in the protocol development for the next recalculation,” said Marshall Faircloth, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

The United States Office of Management and Budget delineates metropolitan statistical areas according to published standards that are applied to census bureau data. The general concept of a metropolitan statistical area is that of a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core. Current metropolitan statistical area delineations were announced by OMB effective March 2020.

Financial help is available to some city residents

10 N1910P35011CThe city of Fayetteville is assisting low- and moderate-income citizens with their rent, utilities and mortgage payments in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Qualified residents are eligible to receive up to $2,000 toward rent, utilities or mortgage payments. Call 2-1-1 and ask for COVID rental, mortgage or utility assistance, or visit https://www.nc211.org. The city of Fayetteville’s Economic and Community Development Department is charged with creating programs using CARES Act funds to help citizens during the pandemic. Applicants must provide past due notices from landlords or utility providers. This is a one-time assistance program, and applicants must live in Fayetteville. This relief effort was made possible by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Information about local relief efforts is available at https://www.fayettevillenc.gov/city-services/economic-community-development.



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