Just call it part of the Noble Research Institute’s continuing commitment to Oklahoma and its residents.
The institute has become part of the State of Oklahoma’s on-going battle against COVID-19, donating 11 “ultracold” freezers to the Oklahoma State Department of Health that is allowing the Pfizer vaccine to have a wider distribution. That vaccine, the first to arrive in Oklahoma earlier this month, must be kept at ultracold temperatures (defined as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature beyond the capability of a normal medical freezer. By contrast, the Moderna vaccine (which arrived in Oklahoma last week) can be kept at traditional freezing temperatures, making it much more flexible in terms of being kept “on ice” until it can be distributed to patients.
Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Lance Frye confirmed earlier this month the foundation that had donated the ultracold industrial grade freezers was Noble Research Institute, headquartered in Ardmore. Those 11 freezers will ensure the Pfizer vaccine can be used at the regional distribution sites across the state, which Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said means a wider distribution to include the state’s rural communities. Until Noble’s donation, those specialty freezers (valued at $15,000 each) were available only in limited locations, few of them in rural areas, state health officials said.
J. Adam Calaway, director of communications for the Noble Research Institute, said the institute had freezers on hand to provide storage for RNA and DNA plant research, because those samples have to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, as well as for long-term curated storage.
“We went through the process of consolidating,” Calaway said, explaining the institute’s staff was able to consolidate materials on hand into other freezers, freeing 11 to be distributed “to everybody who needs them.
“It’s a very easy process. Our facilities are just the best, and so working with our researchers, we through the process and were able to free them up.”
The freezers are ones the research institute can do without, meaning Noble’s donation is a permanent gift, Calaway said.
“They are keeping them,” he said, of the donation to the state health department.
Calaway said Noble officials have been monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and Oklahoma’s response, and as events started to unfold, they reached out to see what the institute could do.
“One thing needed was freezers, and we had these freezers,” he said. “Supporting researchers and supporting our state align with our core values. It’s who we are, as an organization.”
Calaway said the Noble Research Institute’s core mission of research and development is the reason it had the freezers on hand to aid the State of Oklahoma.
“That is the beauty of having the research foundations we have in Oklahoma,” he said, of efforts various entities have made to stem the pandemic.
“It’s been amazing to watch how Oklahoma organizations have come together to help provide solutions to the distribution of this vaccine,” said Steve Rhines, president and CEO of Noble Research Institute. “We are pleased that these freezers will — in some small way — support communities across the state of Oklahoma.”
Reed said the donation will help Oklahoma’s vaccine efforts.
“This ensures we can move forward with the phased vaccine distribution plan quickly and effectively, and allow Oklahomans to receive the vaccine at their local healthcare providers, rather than traveling during the pandemic,” Reed said, in a statement. “These storage units are a critical piece in providing all Oklahomans, whether in a rural or urban area, with equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”