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A key piece of the coronavirus vaccine is made in Mandeville

Creating pure, uncontaminated water isn't as easy as turning on a tap.

MANDEVILLE, La. — It’s the most abundant resource on Earth, and at MECO, a water purification company born in New Orleans more than 90 years ago, now based in Mandeville, water is what keeps business flowing. It’s also a crucial part in developing a vaccine for coronavirus. That’s something company president George Gsell says MECO is working to help with.

“Water is the critical utility in the manufacture of drugs and biologics,” Gsell said. “COVID-19’s rise has put a tremendous demand obviously on these biopharmaceutical companies in a race for the cure.”

Part of what the company does is manufacture the equipment needed to make sure water is nothing but water.

“Many of us think of tap water off the wall, but water to these standards has to be actually manufactured and the manufacturing requirements are significant,” Gsell said.

Through various and sometimes complex techniques, any contaminates must be removed.

“That’s the key is to make sure there’s absolutely nothing in it, nothing can grow in it and that’s it’s pure water,” Gsell said.

Equipment from MECO and the water that comes from it are used by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies around the world. The same goes for some laboratories currently testing for coronavirus.

“Water is critical,” said Dr. Jim Diaz, professor of public health and preventive medicine at LSU Health.

While not a vaccinologist and no connection to MECO, Dr. Diaz knows the importance of pure water across the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

“Over time there have been some terrible tragedies from some things that have been mixed into drugs that haven’t been pure. They may have been contaminated with bacteria or fungi or they may have been contaminated by chemicals,” Diaz said.

When it comes to water, that’s what Gsell’s company is trying to prevent, especially in the fight against coronavirus.

“We know that the vaccine is coming and so we’re really pleased to be a part of that,” Gsell said.

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