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Novavax adding up to 850 jobs in Montgomery County

A Gaithersburg-based vaccine company is planning to expand its local operations and create as many as 850 new jobs, state officials announced Wednesday.

Novavax, which already has 400 full-time employees, signed a lease last month for 150,000 additional square feet of space in Gaithersburg to expand its laboratory and manufacturing operations. The company is working on vaccines for pandemic influenza and the Ebola virus, among other infectious diseases.

The expansion will be assisted by $5 million in conditional loans from the Maryland Department of Commerce, a $2.5 million conditional grant from Montgomery County and a grant of up to $50,000 from the city of Gaithersburg; Novavax will also be eligible for several state and local tax credits, according to the state.

Government support for Novavax reinforces Maryland’s position as both a leader in the life science sector and an ideal place for companies to develop innovative medical treatments, state Commerce Secretary Mike Gill said in a statement.

Gov. Larry Hogan also praised the arrangement, describing it in a statement as a “win for hardworking Marylanders and our state as a whole.”

The company reported a net loss of $77.3 million, or 29 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2016. In May, a Novavax vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus was granted “fast track” status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, helping pave the way for expedited approval.

Novavax also has offices in Rockville and Sweden.

Earlier this month, a new report found that the state’s bioscience industry remains a top recipient of government funding, academic research dollars and venture capital investment, but the field has been growing at a slower pace than in the rest of the of the country.

The Free State received the fifth-largest share of funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2015 with $1.3 billion; California was the top earner with $3.5 billion, followed by Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, according to the trade group Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO.

Maryland ranked sixth for academic research and development funding in 2014 — with $1.7 billion — even though academic and NIH funding has slowed across the industry in recent years, according to the report.

The Novavax announcement – coupled with GlaxoSmithKline’s announcement last year that it was establishing a vaccine research and development center in Rockville expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the region – is a huge shot in the arm for the industry in Maryland.