South Carolina firm's NP Collection Swab offers a highly scalable injection-molded design see more
South Carolina-based Hoowaki LLC has developed an innovative one-piece injection molded design for a COVID-19 swab to help close the gap in U.S. and global COVID-19 testing supplies. The 12-year old micro surface engineering and product solutions company has adapted its proprietary HOOWAKI MICROGRIP® surface technology to create micro-pillars used in the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab that is shown in clinical user testing to meet existing industry-standard products for flexibility and performance. In independent laboratory testing (qPCR Assay) it has also been proven to be equivalent to the industry-standard flocked filament swabs in the collection of patient RNA that is critical for COVID-19 testing. Mass-production of its FDA registered, patent pending, Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab will begin this summer and is expected to reach at least several million units per month.
"The Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab is an important answer to the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic," said Ralph Hulseman, president of Hoowaki LLC. "Our design allows for production to be quickly scaled in communities around the world—rapidly addressing the rising demand for swabs, a critically important element of all COVID-19 testing."
A recent study by Harvard University [https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/roadmaptopandemicresilience_updated_4.20.20_0.pdf] cites the need for up to 20 million COVID-19 tests per day by the end of summer. The proprietary Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab is manufactured using advanced injection molding technologies that utilize existing equipment that is readily available in communities throughout the world. The swab's scalability is due to Hoowaki LLC's formulations and engineering designs working at existing injection molding facilities, which enables the swab to be produced in quantities that meet local demands anywhere in the world.
"Prisma Health collaborated with Hoowaki LLC in the testing and development of the innovative new design. The soft feel and ease of use of the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab tip impressed my team," said Jennifer Meredith, Ph.D., clinical microbiology director at Prisma Health-Upstate.
"Prisma Health is excited to see a locally produced solution that could help ease the shortage of swabs for COVID-19 sample collection," said Meredith. "Hoowaki LLC's product has the potential to help us meet our commitment to our patients in the fight against COVID-19." Prisma Health, the largest healthcare system in South Carolina, harnessed its Rapid Innovation Task Force to help with the project.
Hulseman credits several public-private partnerships that have helped to provide start-up funding for the swab's development: "As is the case for many businesses in today's environment, Hoowaki LLC adapted quickly to meet new challenges where demand is outpacing supply so we could remain not only viable as a company, but also pursue this pioneering technology. We're grateful for the backing of the Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC) and SC Launch, Inc., an investment affiliate of the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), who have been instrumental in helping us develop the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab."
"Hoowaki LLC is a great example of a small business that has proven to be a powerhouse of innovation during a time of incredible challenge," said David Barnett, Chairman of the Greenville Local Development Corporation. "We are proud of our continued support for Hoowaki LLC in the development of the NP Collection Swab."
Hoowaki, LLC is a micro surface engineering services and product solutions company that has developed unique micro surface pattern designs, engineering algorithms, software and manufacturing know-how to address major markets. The company's micro surface technology provides grip or slip solutions in the form of films for medical devices, packaging and other industrial and consumer products. Their team includes experienced micro surface engineers, physicists, friction experts, medical device experts, entrepreneurs, inventors and developers. Hoowaki has market deployment partnerships with Havi (packaging) and BvW Holding AG (implanted medical devices). Hoowaki has a broad patent coverage of micro surface technology.
DPX publishes new application note see more
DPX recently published a new application note “Automated Method for High-Throughput LC-MS/MS Quantitation of Testosterone from Serum: An Improved Validated Method” where a new ultra pure grade filtration tip was introduced. The method for the extraction of testosterone from serum used Low Porosity Filtration Tips- Ultra Pure (LPFT-UP) and incorporated a ZnSO4 solution in addition to acetonitrile on a Hamilton Heater Shaker (HHS) for improved recovery and precision during protein precipitation. The LPFT-UP provide a high purity filtration media for methods with very low detection limits.
Patient samples had a calculated recovery of testosterone at 99.5% with no detected matrix effects. This demonstrates that the use of ZnSO4 and acetonitrile is very efficient in extracting testosterone, and the use of ultra pure grade tips (LPFT-UP) resulted in negligible losses. The introduction of Low Porosity Filtration tips- Ultra Pure provides a new product for low detection level methods.
“We are really excited to expand our product offering for steroid testing,” said Carmen Adamson, brand manager. DPX plans to expand on the research and development to include a full panel of steroids. “Testosterone imbalance can signal a problem in both men and women. This method provides an accurate and precise tool to aid in that determination,” said Evan DiVirgilio, application scientist. DPX continues to provide methods for efficient sample processing for clinical and forensic laboratories.
DPX Technologies manufactures patented sample preparation products and specializes in custom workflows for a diverse client base including clinical, forensic, food safety, and pharmaceutical industries. Their products offer INTip™ sample preparation solutions that are compatible with semi-automated and fully automated liquid handling systems. This enables high sample throughput and high laboratory efficiency.
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About DPX Technologies
DPX is committed to providing innovative sample purification solutions. We collaborate with our customers to provide the high-quality products they need for complex chemical and biological analysis.
Clemson targets fix for mask shortage see more
(Courtesy, Paul Alongi, Clemson College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences)
Melinda Harman of Clemson University is volunteering her time to explore how hospitals could wash and sanitize medical masks without having to ship them elsewhere or buy an expensive piece of equipment.
A device that Harman designed to hold multiple N95 masks is central to her idea. It would help ensure the masks maintain their shape while being washed so that they continue to fit securely around the mouth and nose, said Harman, an associate professor of bioengineering and director of Clemson University’s Medical Device Recycling and Reprocessing program, or GreenMD.
The masks help prevent healthcare workers from inhaling the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and have been in short supply since the pandemic began.
As part of her work, Harman said she has engaged three leading healthcare companies that offer expertise in detergents and decontamination. She is testing different kinds of detergents to find the best solution for cleaning mucus and proteins from the masks.
The detergents are commercially available and already used by hospitals to clean other types of medical equipment.
Harman said that her goal is “to validate a cleaning process that is compatible with existing capabilities and equipment commonly available at hospitals in South Carolina and worldwide.”
The challenge is “to avoid interfering with mask performance, while effectively cleaning the masks without degrading their filtering capacity,” she said.
Harman added, “Working with innovative industry partners is a considerable advantage, with everyone on the team willing to contribute a potential solution. They are providing reliable products that are already proven to meet routine reprocessing challenges in healthcare delivery.”
Harman said one of the advantages to her approach is that many hospitals already have the ability to clean medical equipment, even if they aren’t yet applying it to the masks. That means hospitals wouldn’t need to buy any capital equipment, she said.
Further, the masks would stay at the hospital, reducing travel time, the risk of spreading contamination outside of the hospital and the additional burden on an already-stressed logistics system, Harman said.
“The technology I’m working on is meant to be used broadly, compatible with existing reprocessing practices that are already in hospitals,” Harman said. “It’s intended for rapid deployment in health care settings, and it’s meant to be compatible with any sterilization system.”
Harman added, “Cleaning masks before sterilization enables more masks to be reused Right now, guidelines for sterilization require N95 masks to be inspected and discarded if they are ‘soiled.’ My idea is to reliably clean masks to remove both the visible and ‘invisible’ soils, making the entire reuse process safer.”
Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering, said that Harman is well qualified to lead the work.
Harman has conducted extensive research into reuse and reprocessing of medical equipment. As director of GreenMD, she engages students in industry-driven research targeting healthcare needs in South Carolina and broader global health challenges. GreenMD is the nation’s only engineering-focused program for medical device design targeted for reprocessing and reuse.
“Dr. Harman has built a career on developing innovative ways to reprocess and reuse medical equipment that is normally disposable, which uniquely positions her to have a global impact,” LaBerge said. “I thank her for her service to South Carolina, the nation and the globe as we join together in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.”
Harman said that if her idea works, used masks would be sent to central sterilization facilities within hospitals. The device she designed would hold the masks while they are cleaned. After cleaning, the masks would go through a separate sterilization process to get rid of any lingering microorganisms, including coronavirus.
The mask-holder that Harman designed could be 3D-printed, she said. However, she is focusing on more rapid manufacturing approaches using common acrylic materials. The technology could be readily adapted in hospitals from South Carolina to India, Harman said.
She recently disclosed the technology to the Clemson University Research Foundation, setting it on the path to commercialization and raising the potential for widespread use.
Harman said what’s been most interesting to her is that her previous work with resource-poor countries has come home to the United States, with disrupted supply chains and inadequate supplies at the point of need.
“That’s exactly the situation we’ve been working on with other countries,” Harman said. “For me that’s just been a startling change. It’s been amazing to see how many people have become interested in the topic of safe and sustainable reuse and how many unique solutions they come up with. I hope that creative energy continues, because it can solve a lot of global health problems.”
Monday Moment 5-4-2020 see more
SCBIO's latest Monday Moment arrives amidst the COVID-19 storm to provide meaningful and inspiring information in 3 minutes or less. This week, enjoy an uplifting reminder from University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy Dean Stephen Cutler saluting all those on the front lines of healthcare, plus helpful webinars, news on how SC is stepping up and the ever-popular 3 Great Links. Click here.
KIYATEC Adds Clinical and Reimbursement Experience to Board as Clinical Testing Validation ProgressesKIYATEC adds to its Board of Directors see more
KIYATEC, Inc. today announced the appointment of Bruce Nash, MD, MBA, to its Board of Directors. Dr. Nash brings over 30 years of executive-level healthcare experience in the managed care, hospital and medical group practice settings. Currently, he serves as Chief Physician Executive and Senior Vice President at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, one of the nation’s leading health insurance plans. During his career, Dr. Nash has held executive leadership positions in both managed care (Kaiser Permanente, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan) and healthcare (Northern Berkshire Health System, North Adams Regional Hospital) organizations.
Dr. Nash serves on the boards of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI), while also serving on the Board of Strategic Advisors at the Excel Venture Management Fund and the Clinical Advisory Group at the Blue Venture Fund. He is a board-certified physician who completed his residency training at Duke University. Bruce earned his MBA in Health Sector Management from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Nash to KIYATEC’s Board of Directors,” said Robert Silverman, Chairman of the Board of Directors of KIYATEC. “Bruce’s relevant experience and vision as both a clinician and an expert in managed care will provide tremendous value as KIYATEC moves forward in the development of our predictive clinical tests to improve cancer patient care and outcomes.”
The addition of Dr. Nash to the KIYATEC Board of Directors comes as the company’s evidence development efforts continue to gain momentum:
- 3D-PREDICT Study (NCT03561207) of clinical tests to predict pre-treatment drug response to drug therapies for ovarian cancer and high-grade glioma continues to add study sites and enroll patients
- Pilot study publication entitled, “Prospective Validation of an Ex Vivo, Patient-Derived 3D Spheroid Model for Response Predictions in Newly Diagnosed Ovarian Cancer,” was recognized this spring by Scientific Reports (Nature Research) as being one of its Top 100 cancer papers of 2019 (of >1,000 published)
- Emerging evidence of I/O (immuno-oncology) drug response characterization to be presented via multiple posters at AACR in June
About KIYATEC, Inc.
KIYATEC leverages its proprietary ex vivo 3D cell culture platforms to accurately model and predict response to approved and investigational cancer drugs targeting a spectrum of solid tumors. The company’s Clinical Services business is currently engaged in the validation of clinical assays as well as investigator-initiated studies in ovarian cancer, breast cancer, glioblastoma and rare tumors, in its CLIA-certified laboratory. The company’s Drug Development Services business works in partnership with leading biopharmaceutical companies to unlock response dynamics for their investigational drug candidates across the majority of solid tumor types
It's Monday... start your day right with two minutes of good news, right here see more
SCBIO's latest Monday Moment arrives amidst the COVID-19 storm to provide meaningful and inspiring information in 2 minutes or less. This week, enjoy an uplifting reminder from South Carolina Hospital Association's Thornton Kirby that expresses appreciation to the SC life sciences industry, plus helpful webinars, news on how SC is stepping up and the ever-popular 3 Great Links. Click here.
SCBIO's latest newsletter is full of the news you need see more
This week's SCBIO newsletter is chock full of helpful news and resources to assist you in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn about the just-launched Emergency Supply Portal... a job board for hiring displaced workers... mini-profiles on how SC companies are stepping up... the latest news, big savings and much more. Click here to read in full right now!
South Carolina Launches COVID-19 Emergency Supply Portal to Connect Providers with Organizations in NeedSouth Carolina launches portal to connect critical supplies with those who need them see more
SCMEP, South Carolina Hospital Association, SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO combine
to source critical medical supplies and get them to parties in need quickly
South Carolina – April 13, 2020 – A collaboration between SCMEP, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO has resulted in the expedited launch of a new online South Carolina Emergency Supply Collaborative web portal.
Located at www.SCCOVID19.org, the portal connects parties in need of essential supplies and equipment with those that can provide it in quickly and efficiently. It allows industry and community partners with the ability to quickly produce, source, test, certify or contribute critical medical supplies (such as face shields, gowns, ventilators and masks) to directly connect with the healthcare providers, first responders and members of industry in search of those essential supply needs in one easy step.
Manufacturers able to expand or pivot their production lines, suppliers and distributors with access to ready-made supplies, organizations able to donate supplies or personal protective equipment (PPE) can identify the supplies and equipment they can offer in the site’s central repository. Once quickly reviewed and vetted by a team from the collaborative, organizations in need of the materials will be digitally connected through the portal to secure their desired goods from providers directly.
The need for the portal was identified after members of the collaborative began individually fielding hundreds of calls from organizations in need of such supplies, said Chuck Spangler, President of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP).
“Each of our respective organizations has strong and indelible positions as sources of information, connection and aid to our respective constituencies, so it was logical for those parties – whether hospitals or manufacturers, existing industry or life sciences organizations – to turn to us in time of need,” said Mr. Spangler. “After sharing among ourselves the flood of requests we were individually receiving and trying to manage, we determined that a combined approach would offer greatest value and efficiency for our state and its citizens, and the creation of the South Carolina COVID-19 Emergency Supply portal was quickly underway.”
The site identifies critical need items as evidenced by industry, healthcare, first responder and governmental audiences across the state, and allows organizations to quickly enter the type of goods they can provide or manufacture, quantities and production capacity, and supply chain needs or requirements. Once entered and vetted by the SCMEP team, inquiring parties seeking the goods will be connected to the providers through the portal. Organizations then conduct transactions and arrange and plan logistics directly.
“This is a joint effort to recruit community partners with ability to quickly source or provide needed medical supplies to support South Carolina’s COVID-19 response,” said Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of the SC Hospital Association. “South Carolina’s COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will save valuable time and effort in connecting those in need of goods with those who have them… at a time where every minute counts in saving lives and defeating this formidable virus.”
The COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will be updated constantly with new information and opportunities to support South Carolina emergency response efforts. It also links directly to individual websites of the four Collaborative partners, which each provide a host of resources, news, connections and relevant information for businesses and individuals.
“We are all in this together, and I am proud of the South Carolina business community’s continued response to serve our state during this unprecedented time,” said S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “The COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative’s ability to connect manufacturers, suppliers and other organizations with the front-line medical personnel who need these critical items will serve as a valuable resource.”
Organizations and individuals can go online 24/7 to identify critical need items or to note what products they can provide or may need, said Sam Konduros, CEO of SCBIO. “We encourage every member of industry, if you have a product that is needed and which you can provide, produce, test, certify or donate, let us know that right now by completing the simple form on the site. And for organizations in need of such items, let us know that right away so that we can get connect you with parties who can help right now.”
Visit the new site at https://sccovid19.org/
Nephron seeks to stem coronavirus concerns with expanded offerings see more
In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. has asked the Food and Drug Administration for permission to add up to six filling lines to ramp up its production of sterile respiratory medication.
Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said she spoke with the FDA on Tuesday morning and is “waiting to hear back.” Kennedy also said Nephron will begin making its own hand sanitizer as early as this week.
Nephron, which CEO Lou Kennedy said is one of two companies in the U.S. that produce 98% of the nebulizer solutions used in hospitals or sold in retail outlets, relocated to South Carolina from Florida in 2014.
“We didn’t move all the equipment right away,” moving an additional six filling lines to South Carolina in 2019, Kennedy said. She said she had been in discussion with the FDA for permission to bring those machines online. A meeting had been scheduled for March 22 before she made another request Tuesday.
West Columbia-based Nephron has asked for FDA approval to add up to six filling lines for its respiratory medication manufacturing. CEO Lou Kennedy also announced the company will begin making hand sanitizer this week. (Photo/File)
The eight filling lines currently being used in production of the inhalation solutions Nephron makes typically produce 80 to 85 million doses a month “on a regular basis” and are capable of making up to 110 million monthly doses, Kennedy said.
“As of yesterday, we had orders on the books for 87 million, so already a month’s worth,” Kennedy said. “For the last two weeks, those orders have been running about 48% higher than we would normally see. … We do have backstock that we’ve built up in inventory, (but) that won’t last forever.”
To maximize Nephron’s 24-hour, seven-day-a-week production schedule, Kennedy said the company has begun providing in-house child care. Children are provided food, and already stringent cleaning efforts have been “tripled,” Kennedy said. She said the same methods used to maintain sterile facility conditions, including the use of a fogging machine and wiping down surfaces with isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, are being deployed in the day care.
“We’re really good at cleaning here, because we only make sterile drugs,” Kennedy said. “I’m very confident about making a clean environment for these children.”
During a conference call Tuesday, Kennedy also said Nephron has received FDA approval to begin making its own hand sanitizer and ordered supplies to do so on Monday.
“We will take care of the Nephron family first, and after we do that, we will look at should we go through churches, the Salvation Army, how can we help the community, and/or commercial production,” she said. “I’ve had at least six requests from various sales reps across the country. Hospitals are asking can we make that hand sanitizer for them.”
The plan is to produce 50-liter batches of a strong, FDA recipe without fragrances or other diluting agents, Kennedy said. She said she will gift what is left over from the first batch, after Nephron employees and their families have been served, to local charities.
Kennedy said as early as December, Nephron began taking stock of things such as the resin used to make vials of its liquid medication as well as its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients. “We are fortunate that we have more than a year’s supply of that (API) on hand,” she said.
Nephron makes bronchodilators including albuterol used to treat respiratory illnesses such as bronchial asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and croup. It also manufactures Pocket Nebs, which are portable, battery-charged nebulizers.
Novel coronavirus can cause cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Severe infections can lead to complications including pneumonia, according to the World Health Organization.
Increased product demand during cold, cough and allergy season, as well as past experience with respiratory illnesses including SARS and H1N1, have made the company ever-vigilant, Kennedy said.
“We make sure to be very rock-solid in our preparation to accommodate the needs of America,” she said.
Kennedy said hiring and training has already begun in anticipation of FDA approval of the additional filling lines.
“We have the people to be able to ramp that up right now,” she said. “ … If we don’t get our hands wrapped around this quickly, meaning we squelch the spread, get control of the spread, it’s going to be a long, hard road. But it’s easily solved if the FDA allows me to ramp up the five or six other lines that I brought here from Florida.”
Zylo nominated to BIO contest see more
Zylö Therapeutics Inc., developer of the transformational Z-pod™ topical delivery platform, announced that it has been nominated as a finalist for the Buzz of BIO Contest, which recognizes the most innovative companies in the life sciences.
BIO is the world’s largest biotech association. Among other conferences, the association sponsors the 2020 BIO International Convention each year, with almost 20,000 attendees. It takes place in San Diego this year in June, where the winner of Buzz of BIO will be announced.
Each finalist was asked to submit the three compelling reasons to vote for them. Zylö’s reasons are summarized as follows:
1. Zylö’s endocannabinoid-loaded Z-pod™ solution is showing striking results in a lupus model... Lupus affects women and people of color disproportionately and has tragic quality-of-life ramifications.
2. Our nitric-oxide-releasing Z-pod™ topical solution is showing compelling results in an Erectile Dysfunction model (where ED is secondary to prostatectomy, a condition that is not treatable with Viagra et al.); this solution should translate well as a treatment for older women with sexual dysfunction.
3. Our technology is disruptive and affordable... and we plan on keeping it that way.
Scott Pancoast, Zylö CEO and founder, stated “This is a huge honor and reflects the incredible innovation taking place in our lab from Andrew Draganski PhD, scientific founder, and scientists Eric Renne (M.S., U.C.) and Clay Tucker (M.S., Clemson). We encourage folks in the Upstate to vote in an effort to continue this region’s winning ways in the world of technological innovation.”
About Zylö Therapeutics: Zylö has developed a breakthrough topical delivery system that extends the duration-of-effect, improves the solubility/targeting, and/or enhances the product performance of many therapeutic agents. Notably, the Z-pod™ technology platform has enabled the Patchless Patch™ concept and has successfully harnessed the therapeutic potential of nitric oxide, one of the most powerful—and short-lived—biomolecules produced by our bodies. For more details please visit our web site, www.zylotherapeutics.com and follow us on Twitter (@ZyloTherapies).
Dr. Carol Moore steps down as Columbia College president see more
Dr. Carol A. Moore announced her decision to step down as president of Columbia College after four years in the top leadership role. During her tenure, Dr. Moore helped Columbia College strengthen its mission of providing a strong liberal arts education and professional programs emphasizing service, social justice, and leadership development.
“The Columbia College family thanks President Moore for her tireless effort to make our school a special place for so many. She has taken on re-positioning Columbia College with leadership and strength,” Board of Trustees Chair Toby Goodlett said. “Since her arrival in September 2016, Dr. Moore has been invaluable to our mission. We respect her decision to step away at this time to care for her family and her health and we want to express our appreciation for her unwavering dedication to our school and mission,” Goodlett said.
The extraordinary planning necessary for a smooth transition to becoming a coeducational college, exacerbated by the challenges facing senior management to provide a comprehensive response to COVID 19, convinced the Board of Trustees to consider a familiar voice to lead. Former President, Dr. Peter Mitchell will serve as the interim President, effective immediately while the board starts a search for a permanent president.
As former President of Columbia College from 1988-97, Dr. Mitchell has a passion for the school and an understanding of and appreciation for the leadership role the College plays in South Carolina. During his tenure the Women’s Leadership Institute was established, the Johnnie Cordell Breed Leadership Center was built and Mitchell helped secure funding for the Barbara Bush Center for Science & Technology. For the past 13 years, Dr. Mitchell has served as a consultant to college and university trustees and presidents in the areas of strategic planning, enrollment management, and fundraising.
“Dr. Mitchell worked with Dr. Moore for four years and they have remained friends for decades. We have no doubt this transition will be seamless and the students and staff will be thrilled to have Dr. Mitchell’s excitement and energy on campus,” Goodlett said.
ABOUT COLUMBIA COLLEGE
Columbia College was founded in 1854 as Columbia Female College by the Methodist Conference of South Carolina. The College, located on Plain Street, now Hampton, in Columbia, SC, opened to students in October 1859. Columbia College continues to serve as an institution for higher education with approximately 1,200 male and female students in both undergraduate and graduate courses.
Nephron, Ritedose to the rescue with respiratory drugs see more
Two South Carolina companies that make drugs used to treat respiratory illnesses and symptoms, like those experienced by people infected with the coronavirus, have upped their production amid increased demand.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals in West Columbia and Ritedose Corp. make generic versions of almost all the respiratory drugs used in the United States, including albuterol sulfate and ipratropium bromide, according to the CEOs of the two companies.
Business at Nephron spiked last week, CEO Lou Kennedy said, with orders up 48 percent. The CEO of Ritedose, Jody Chastain, said his company has received a slight increase in demand. Click to read full story, courtesy of The Post and Courier...
SC Life Sciences has a new portal for coronavirus information, courtesy of SCBIO see more
Your SCBIO team is monitoring the most up-to-date safety, infection control and health protocols recommended by global experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), South Carolina DHEC and others. We've organized the information, updated daily, on the new Coronavirus page here.
The team is also deploying new ways to keep South Carolina's life sciences industry connected and informed. New weekly webinars start Friday at 10am, sharing resources and relevant news right from the mouths of life sciences leaders in our state and nationally.
Check out the full spectrum of news here, and send us your ideas and updates on how you and your organization are faring, and making a difference, in this critical battle. We care.
WestEdge booming as VIKOR calls it home see more
According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic drug resistance has become one of the greatest threats to global health. Charleston-based Vikor Scientific is in the business of eliminating this health epidemic, and their successful efforts to do so will continue as they expand and move their Lowcountry operations and growing workforce to WestEdge.
In the midst of this health crisis, the pressure is on clinicians to prescribe the correct antibiotics. At Vikor, they’re providing medical professionals with the diagnostic tools to achieve effective treatments. The team at Vikor specializes in customizing molecular diagnostic panels to accurately detect and quantify pathogen and resistance gene loads within 12-24 hours of specimen arrival at the lab.
Vikor’s mission to improve day-to-day diagnostics relies heavily on it’s Charleston workforce, with the company packing, shipping and handling everything going out to their vast 3,000+ client list - a diverse roster of medical professionals covering 48 of the 50 states.
“At Vikor’s new WestEdge location, together with South Carolina Research Authority, we’re creating a lab and office environment that people in Charleston have been craving for years,” said Vikor Scientific Co-Founder, Scotty Branch. “Not only will our workforce feel good about going to work in a state-of-the-art facility looking out over a world class city, we’re proud to invite scientists from across the country to visit our workspace.”
Vikor currently boasts a headcount of 53 individuals and is hiring weekly. The entire team is set to move into the nearly-completed 22 WestEdge building early this spring, with operations planned on multiple floors of the building. The company’s WestEdge headquarters is set to include the company’s C-Suite, sales & marketing teams, customer service, supply chain management, and payer relations, as well as multiple renowned clinicians, neuropharmacologists, medical specialists, researchers and scientists.
“As a graduate of MUSC, I’m extremely aware of the potential collaboration opportunities that exist at WestEdge with the neighborhood’s close proximity to the medical district,” said Shea C. Harrelson, PA-C, Vikor Co-Founder. “We recently launched our research division, KOR Life Sciences, and we are interested in working with other scientists at MUSC to identify areas where synergy may be possible.”
MUSC Health plans to move members of it’s senior management team to the second and third floors at 22 WestEdge, while Vikor will occupy the building’s eighth floor penthouse & fourthfloor. With its striking architecture, unique height and full height glass, the building will be the tallest multi-tenant office structure on the peninsula and in Charleston’s metropolitan area when it opens, offering 150,000 square feet of office & lab space, as well as street level space for cafes, restaurants & shopping.
“Vikor’s presence affirms the WestEdge vision. Scotty and Shea’s team represents the breadth of Charleston’s highly-educated workforce and underscores the potential and viability of our city to house world-class companies like Vikor,” said Michael Maher, CEO of The WestEdge Foundation, Inc. “Our neighborhood’s current and future living options, restaurants, retail, fitness, gathering and incubator spaces, were developed with businesses like Vikor in mind.”
Publix Super Market, the development’s flagship retailer, opened in April 2019 at 10 WestEdge, joining BkeDShop, Barre South, Jimmy Johns, and Hokkaido Sushi & Grill Restaurant, IX Artistry, 9Round Fitness and Domino’s Pizza at 99 WestEdge street. Recently-opened Woodhouse Spa occupies the retail space along the Spring Street frontage of 10 WestEdge.
Upon completion, WestEdge will encompass more than 3,000,000 square feet of space on 60 acres along the Ashley River adjacent to MUSC and the Medical District, and fronting on Brittlebank Park and the Joseph Riley Baseball Stadium. WestEdge is a public-private partnership created to advance economic development and expand the research capabilities of the Medical University of South Carolina and foster new companies and collaborative opportunities with private industry. It is an innovative redevelopment that is transforming the quality of life for Charleston's west side.
To learn more about WestEdge, visit http://www.westedgecharleston.com/ or follow the development’s progress on Twitter @westedgechs, Facebook @westedgecharleston, and Instagram @westedgechs.
WestEdge is a 60-acre master-planned development growing into a community of world-class office and lab space, beautiful apartment towers, restaurants, and retail shopping linked together by sweeping views and access to the Ashley River and Brittlebank Park. Key 22 WestEdge partners include Gateway Development (Developer) ELV Associates (Investor), BB&T (Lender), Trident Construction (General Contractor), Perkins & Will (Architect), Thomas and Hutton (Civil Engineer), and Lee & Associates (Marketing & Leasing).
Blinktbi of Charleston, SC pinpoints concussions see more
A startup that grew out of research at the Medical University of South Carolina and The Citadel has hit the market and closed on a new round of funding.
Blinktbi Inc.’s EyeStat device, now being sold to schools and athletic programs, puffs food-grade carbon dioxide into a subject’s eye, triggering the blink reflex. Then, high-speed cameras within the device capture thousands of images and gauge how long it took for the person to blink.
The upstart raised nearly $5 million in 2017, its first year. Those early funds were used in part to finance ongoing research at The Citadel to prove the device can be used to detect concussions and other maladies.
Ryan Fiorini, Blinktbi’s chief operations officer, said the EyeStat prototype weighed 100 pounds, and it utilized a gaming computer to process the images.
The next job was to cut it down to size.
“It didn’t fit in the back of my full-size SUV,” said Fiorini, who has a doctorate immunology and microbiology from MUSC. “We rolled that into the engineer’s office and said, ‘We need this to be four-and-a-half pounds.’”
They were able to pull it off.
The company cleared a formidable hurdle at the end of 2019, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Blinktbi permission to market its device, after a rigorous review process that took months to complete. One study published in 2013 found the FDA’s process to get medical devices to market from the idea phase typically takes between three and seven years.
Now free to begin selling EyeStat, Fiorini said the company is leasing the technology to lessen the blow of the device’s full cost of about $10,000.
The latest round of funding, for about $6 million, will help offset the costs of manufacturing the medical devices, to make that option possible.
Fiorini said organizations can rent EyeStat for around $200 per month.
One day, the company hopes insurance will cover the use of the technology.
The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences estimated the number sports-related concussions every year falls between 1.7 million and 3 million. About 300,000 are football injuries. Half go unreported.
Concussions happen when a blow to the head causes the brain to bounce around in the skull, leading to a chemical response, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those chemical changes make the brain more sensitive to stress until it heals.
The CDC found in one study that children and teens account for 65 percent of all concussions.
Fiorini’s own son suffered a concussion when he fell off a dock as a toddler.
“What we would come to find out is that there was no way to test him,” Fiorini said in a TEDx talk in Charleston last year.
Studies of how the blink reflex can indicate diseases like Parkinson’s and schizophrenia date back to the 1950s. But no tool has been developed in the intervening decades to use the response to help with diagnosis.
Dr. Nancey Tsai, a neurosurgeon at MUSC, came up with the idea for a portable machine that could measure the blink reflex in 2011.
From there, the Zucker Institute for Applied Neurosciences, which is embedded within MUSC, helped to license the technology. Mark Semler, CEO of the institute and now an adviser to Blinktbi, said the startup is the second in the institute’s portfolio to pass FDA clearance.
“The market is huge, because there’s no good option out there,” Semler said. “The blink can’t be cheated.”
Right now, Fiorini said the company has fewer than 10 employees working out of its office on Rutledge Avenue. Among its advisers are heavy-hitters in the world of sports, including Danny Morrison, the former president of the Carolina Panthers, Steve Smith, a longtime wide receiver in the NFL, and Harvey Schiller, former executive director of the United States Olympic Committee and former president of the International Baseball Federation.
Looking forward, Blinktbi is researching whether its technology could help to detect Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Fiorini said he can see EyeStat in the hands of police for field tests, giving officers an immediate, objective measure of sobriety — though each new application for the device would require a new round of FDA approvals.