The New York State (NYS) government has been making headlines for leadership in managing the COVID-19 crisis and marshaling needed resources for our State’s people and healthcare providers. As a proud New York company, Regeneron reached out to Governor Andrew Cuomo to brainstorm other ways we could potentially lend our skills and know-how during this COVID-19 crisis.
I first connected with Governor Cuomo’s team on a Saturday night in early March. By Monday, three of my Industrial Operations & Product Supply (IOPS) folks and I were meeting with them in the COVID-19 war room at the New York Capitol Building. We spent that first day recruiting others from our IOPS team and coming up with a number of creative ideas to help address critical supply shortages.
As the week wore on, it became clear we could uniquely assist by manufacturing viral transport media (VTM), an important component of the COVID-19 test-collection kits being prepared by the state.
VTM is a liquid used to preserve patient test samples (a swab from the nose or throat) until they can be tested, and is critical in many types of testing situations, whether swabs need to be sent to a lab or evaluated more quickly in a medical center. This effort was more than just finding existing supplies to donate – we put our heads together to see if we could obtain the necessary components, prepare the VTM formula requested by NYS, and leverage the specialized skill set of our employees to make VTM and dispense it into test tubes.
In the space of just a few days, our team had determined how we could quickly manufacture the VTM to meet NYS specifications, ordered materials and put out a call for employee volunteers.
Hundreds of our colleagues – more than we needed and many who were working from the safety of their own homes – offered to come onsite to work weekends and long hours to produce the VTM, test it to ensure optimal pH levels, and dispense it into test tubes. Beginning last week, over 100 IOPS employees began making the VTM, and filling began over the weekend. As of Tuesday, March 31, we’ve made over 100,000 units, and we are committed to making over 500,000.
We are donating 100 percent of our time and supplies/materials for this effort – an approximately $1 million in-kind contribution.
Given my team’s consistent performance over the years, I feel like I should say this was just another day in IOPS. In addition to this VTM efforts, our global IOPS team – all 4,000 of us – were already heavily and actively involved in re-routing production plans to ready our sites to produce a novel antibody treatment for COVID-19. We are excited to take the innovation and processes our Regeneron scientists are currently advancing to get needed therapeutics to people around the globe. We are also stepping up production of an existing Regeneron medicine which is being investigated in clinical trials of severe and critical hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The whole team is working hard, thinking strategically and adapting in real-time to the escalating situation.
I couldn’t be prouder of my team, or of the whole company and how we are working together to do what we can against COVID-19.