As COVID-19 numbers continue to grow in Athens County, a local business has emerged as a key player in fighting the virus.

Stirling Ultracold, located in The Plains, has developed a freezer with the largest storage capacity for the transportation and storage of potential vaccines for COVID-19. The company, located at 6000 Poston Rd., The Plains, employs 130 people from around Southeast Ohio.

“It appears that the widespread delivery of many COVID-19 vaccine candidates will require volumes of freezer units at multiple ultra-low temperatures and even more for smaller units where we have a unique position in the industry,” Neill Lane, Stirling Ultracold’s chief strategy officer, said. “It is great news for the company, our employees and the wider community. Our employees and products can help solve one of the many complicated challenges in getting the COVID-19 virus under control.”

Stirling Ultracold’s ULT freezers has recently been featured in the New York Times and Columbus Business First. The freezers are more compact and use 70-75 percent less energy.

Many potential COVID-19 vaccines, including a leading candidate manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech that’s shown to be 90 percent effective, must be kept at temperatures as low as minus 80-degrees Celsius from the time of bottling to when they’re injected into a person’s arm, according to a report in The New York Times that makes mention of Stirling Ultracold’s freezer that can reportedly store 48,000 vials.

TechGROWTH Ohio, a program of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, was the lead investor in Stirling Ultracold’s first round of financing.

“As an early and ongoing investor in Stirling Ultracold, we are proud that this company’s innovation will contribute to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic not just in southeastern Ohio, but globally,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “They are an outstanding example of how TechGROWTH launches and grows companies to expand regional economic development.”

Athens County is also home to another company that has developed technology that’s proven useful amid the pandemic. Quidel Corporation, a San Diego-based business with a Research and Development site located at 2005 E. State St., manufactures a COVID-19 antigen test, which processes nasal swabs in a $1,200 toaster-sized reader called The Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIAThe test, which has come under fire by some for its lack of accuracy relative to PCR alternatives, can return results within 15 minutes.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Athens County, with new cases being diagnosed every day. Last week, the Athens City-County Health Department reported two deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the county death total to four since the beginning of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday at 2 p.m., there are 1,547 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Athens County. Of these, 287 are known active cases and 1,256 are recovered cases of COVID-19. Statewide there are now 267,356 total COVID-19 cases in Ohio, and 5,623 deaths.

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