Bozeman Montana, situated in the Gallatin Valley, has gained more attention as an up-and-coming small city in the beautify Big Sky country, now is hosting a global clinical trial with major implications: it involves one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates produced by Germany’s BioNTech and now part of a Pfizer multinational effort. Bozeman Health was tapped as a clinical investigational site for this mission-critical clinical trial as the Pfizer and BioNTech duo entered into a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to make up to 100 million doses of the vaccine known as BNT162: they pledged to distribute the product, should it be approved, at no cost to residents in the nation. Bozeman Health will participate in potential history making.
The Valley of the Flowers
Bozeman is a special place. Situated in the Gallatin Valley, and for thousands of years known as the “Valley of the Flowers” by Native Americans such as the Shoshone, Blackfeet, Crow and other tribes, the first recorded whites to the area was William Clark in 1806 but it wasn’t until trader John Bozeman showed up in 1863, opening up the “Bozeman Trail”, which was an offshoot of the famous “Oregon Trail” making a famous mining town of the time available called Virginia City. Bozeman town was established shortly thereafter. Bozeman remained rural for a long time until 1980 when the population crossed 20,000; by 2020 the booming town approaches 50,000. Gallatin County, now approaching 110,000 is the fastest growing county in the state.
Approaching 100,000 in the county, with a regional airport, university (Montana State University) and some prominent tech companies the small city, now the fourth-largest in Montana, attracts new residents often because of its spectacular scenery, quality of life and nearby recreation from skiing to fishing, backpacking and other outdoor adventures. Montana has a generally Western U.S.-oriented, free spirited culture that facilitates entrepreneurial attitude. The taxation although progressive is relatively streamlined and there is no sales tax with below than average property taxes.
Enter Bozeman Health & The Study
Thus a big deal for Bozeman Health to participate in what is one of the historic COVID-19 Phase 3 vaccine trials. According to Mark Smith, chief physician officer for the health system, Pfizer has brought studies up to the Big Sky country before and hence the relationship was in place to conduct important business. Williams noted recently for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “It’s pretty special that an organization this size has a very robust clinical research department.”
With five full-time staff in the research department and expansion ongoing, Williams touts the researcher experience available at this research site. But he did emphasize this is a unique situation, reported Shaylee Ragar of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Williams noted, “We’ve never seen such urgency to find a vaccine. There are major drug companies around the world competing to bring something to market as quickly as possible.”
The Study to Start in Couple Weeks
The Bozeman Health team haven’t commenced the study yet but are now preparing as they await more specific instructions from the study sponsors on specific details reports Ms. Ragar. The general terms are known: Bozeman Health must contribute volunteers and follow the Phase 3 study protocol to help determine if the vaccine is safe and effective. The Bozeman Health team expects to get going within two weeks.
The Health System in the Gallatin Valley
Bozeman Health maintains a nonprofit community hospital known as Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, committed to providing high quality health care for over a century. The health system also offers a number of other provider facilities from medical centers and clinics to elderly care.
What began as a 20-bed hospital with one doctor on staff is now an 86-bed facility with nearly 200 physicians on medical staff, representing 42 specialties. Bozeman Health, the parent company, is the largest employer in Gallatin Valley with nearly 2000 employees.
The system is known for cardiology, orthopedics, pulmonary and gastroenterology services and care for pneumonia and sepsis are “five star” rated by Healthgrades, also ranking the system as one of America’s 100 top pulmonary care specialists in 2015. They have earned several other awards and kudos, and Bozeman Health is a member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Network.
Bozeman Health, as discussed previously, maintains a clinical research site operation.
Call to Action: Interested in participating? Bozeman Health Clinical Research can be reached at 406-414-4475 or ClinicalResearch@bozemanhealth.org