South Carolina's fastest-growing industry stars in new SCBIZ Magazine features see more
The 14-page feature spanned four stories, from the trends driving the rapid growth of life sciences in South Carolina, to major advances in life science research happening here at home. A fabulous story on how SCBIO and life sciences organizations are working to close the workforce gap is also included, as well as an industry salute for our role in helping America emerge from COVID. It's a tremendous section.
Over 20 organizations are featured in stories, and nearly as many industry leaders from across SC are quoted in articles, enriched with photos, industry data on segments and market penetration, and more.
More than two years in the making by the SCBIO team who worked with SCBIZ to bring this first-ever magazine feature on the industry to life, SCBIZ intends to build on this year's momentum and do another life sciences feature next Summer. READ THE ENTIRE SECTION HERE!
More than $19 million in grants to several key connected health projects see more
The federal government is investing more than $19 million in key telehealth initiatives, including the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) and Telehealth Centers of Excellence (COE) program.
Some 36 awards are being distributed by the Health and Human Services Department through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to some of the nation’s highest-profile connected health projects. The investments are aimed at strengthening programs and supporting innovation in areas that have seen record adoption and growth during the pandemic.
“Telehealth expands access to care and is a vital tool for improving health equity by providing timely clinical assessment and treatment for our most vulnerable populations,” HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa said in a press release issued this morning. “This funding will help drive the innovation necessary to build clinical networks, educational opportunities, and trusted resources to further advance telehealth.”
The TRC consortium, which consists of 12 regional and two national centers, is getting $4.55 million – or $325,000 per site - to bolster and expand their efforts. The TRCs, which provide a wide range of guidance and resources, have seen heavy traffic over the past year and a half as healthcare providers and other organizations have adopted telehealth to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Telehealth COE program, meanwhile, is getting $6.5 million to expand services and strategies aimed at improving access and outcomes in underserved parts of the country that deal with high chronic care needs and poverty, and to serve as incubators for new telehealth ideas. Located in academic medical centers, COEs are seen as national models for evidence-based programs and strategies that promote best practices.
In 2017, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) were designated Telehealth Centers of Excellence. The award is being split between the two programs.
The Evidence-Based Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth Network Program (EB-TNP) is getting roughly $3.8 million to bolster its DTC telehealth efforts. Those awards are being issued to 11 organizations: HealthHIE Georgia, Cornerstone Whole Healthcare in Idaho, Drake University in Iowa, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Baptist Health Foundation Corbin in Kentucky, MaineHealth, UMMC, Lester E. Cox Medical University in Missouri, the Ben Archer Health Center in New Mexico, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Texas A&M University.
Finally, the Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP) is getting about $4.28 million to “help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.”
Those awards are going to nine organizations: Community Health Center in Connecticut, the American Academy of Pediatrics in Illinois, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Medical Care Development in Maine, the JSI Research and Training Institute in Massachusetts, President and Fellows of Harvard College in Massachusetts, the University of New Mexico, Oregon Health & Science University and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust.
Charles River Labs quietly continues its critical work to save lives see more
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — It’s one of the stranger, lesser-known aspects of U.S. health care — the striking, milky-blue blood of horseshoe crabs is a critical component of tests to ensure injectable medications such as coronavirus vaccines aren’t contaminated.
To obtain it, harvesters bring many thousands of the creatures to laboratories to be bled each year, and then return them to the sea — a practice that has drawn criticism from conservationists because some don’t survive the process.
The blood, which is blue due to its copper content, is coveted for proteins used to create the LAL test, a process used to screen medical products for bacteria. Synthetic alternatives aren’t widely accepted by the health care industry and haven’t been approved federally, leaving the crabs as the only domestic source of this key ingredient.
Many of these crabs are harvested along the coast of South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster promoted the niche industry as key to the development of a domestic medical supply chain, while also noting that environmental concerns should be explored.
“We don’t want to have to depend on foreign countries for a lot of reasons, including national security, so it’s good to see this company thriving in the United States,” McMaster told The Associated Press. He spoke this month during a visit to Charles River Laboratories at its Charleston facilities, to which AP was granted rare access. “We want to do everything we can to onshore all of these critical operations.”
Horseshoe crabs — aquatic arthropods shaped like helmets with long tails — are more akin to scorpions than crabs, and older than dinosaurs. They’ve been scurrying along the brackish floors of coastal waters for hundreds of millions of years. Their eggs are considered a primary fat source for more than a dozen species of migratory shore birds, according to South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources.
Their value to avoiding infection emerged after scientists researching their immune response injected bacteria into horseshoe crabs in the 1950s. They ultimately developed the LAL test, and the technique has been used since the 1970s to keep medical materials and supplies free of bacteria.
Their biomedical use has been on the rise, with 464,482 crabs brought to biomedical facilities in 2018, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
In South Carolina, that’s done only by Charles River, a Massachusetts-based company that tests 55% of the world’s injectables and medical devices — like IV bags, dialysis solutions and even surgical cleaning wipes, according to company officials.
“We are almost the last line of defense before these drugs leave the manufacturing area and make it to a patient,” senior vice president Foster Jordan told McMaster. “If it touches your blood, it’s been tested by LAL. And, more than likely, it’s been tested by us.”
Charles River employs local fishermen to harvest the crabs by hand, a process governed by wildlife officials that can only happen during a small annual window, when the creatures come ashore to spawn.
Contractors bring them to the company’s bleeding facilities, then return them to the waters from which they came. During a year, Jordan said his harvesters can bring in 100,000 to 150,000 horseshoe crabs, and still can’t satisfy the growing demand.
“We need more, though,” Jordan told McMaster, adding that his company is working with the state to open up more harvesting areas. “The population’s steady. ... We need access to more beaches, to get more crabs.”
The practice is not without its critics, some of whom have argued that bleeding the crabs and hauling them back and forth is harmful. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10% to 15% of harvested crabs die during the process.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species overall as “vulnerable,” noting decreasing numbers as of a 2016 assessment. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission listed 2019 stock as “good” in the Southeast, but “poor” in areas around New York.
Conservationists sued last year, accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of shirking its duty to protect areas including South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge by allowing horseshoe crab harvesting. They argued that taking out the crabs affects other species in the protected area. A federal judge temporarily halted the harvest, but was reversed following Charles River’s appeal.
The environmental groups asked to withdraw their complaint this month after federal officials imposed a permitting process for any commercial activity in the refuge, including horseshoe harvesting, beginning Aug. 15. Even if such permits are denied, Jordan told McMaster that only 20% of its harvest came from the refuge, with most coming from further down the South Carolina coast.
There is a synthetic alternative to the horseshoe crab blood, but it hasn’t been widely accepted in the U.S., and meanwhile, Charles River’s international competitors are making synthetics and also pressing for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which Jordan said could hamper domestic efforts like his own.
“My mission is to make sure that any competitor that comes into the United States, from China or any of these other producers, has to go through the same regulatory process that we had to go through, to make sure that it’s safe,” Jordan said. “If all these synthetics start coming in from other countries, we’re going to lose the protection that we’ve had for all these years, and the safety, and the control of the drug supply.”
“We want to have as much stuff made here as we can,” McMaster said in response.
As for the environmental concerns, the governor said maintaining a healthy balance between scientific demands and the state’s ecosystems, which bolster a significant portion of South Carolina’s tourism economy, is paramount.
“It’s like a house of cards. You pull out one part, and the rest of it will fall,” McMaster said. “So I think we have to be very careful, and be sure that any company, any business, any activity, whether it’s commercial or otherwise, meets whatever requirements are there to protect the species — birds, horseshoe crabs, any sort of life.”
Lecture hall in new facility to be named for donor see more
A lecture hall in the college’s new pharmacy facility will be named the Bobby Gene ‘63 and Barbara Harter Rippy Lecture Hall.
Noted Union, South Carolina, philanthropist Barbara Harter Rippy has made a $1 million commitment to the College of Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). The donation will support the mission and vision of the college.
In recognition of this major gift, the college is naming the lecture hall in its new pharmacy facility the Bobby Gene ‘63 and Barbara Harter Rippy Lecture Hall. A virtual groundbreaking for the new facility was held in April.
“The Rippys exemplify the best characteristics of independent community pharmacy ownership,” said Philip Hall, Pharm.D., dean of the MUSC College of Pharmacy. “Trusted caregivers, community leaders, dedicated to customers, good businesspeople and great models for our students. We’re delighted the Rippy name will have such a prominent place at MUSC.”
For 34 years, the Rippys owned and operated Smith Drug Store on Main Street in Union. In 1959, Bobby Rippy enrolled at the MUSC College of Pharmacy while Barbara Rippy continued to work, supporting the family until her husband earned a pharmacy degree that would eventually enable them to buy Smith Drug Store in 1969.
The Rippys became community leaders and benefactors, supporting civic and church organizations as well as sponsoring a Dixie Youth baseball team for 44 years. They retired in 2004 and continued to be vibrant and active parts of Union civic life, participating in and supporting more than a half dozen organizations. Bobby Rippy passed away in 2012.
The Rippys have long been known for their generosity of spirit; they were giving back when they barely had anything to give. Barbara Rippy credits God first for her ability to give so generously. Not long after opening the pharmacy, when a customer had charged children’s prescriptions four times in a row, Bobby Rippy said, “As long as I live, and I’ve got any money, no child will go without their medication.” They stuck by that maxim, and when they closed, they were still owed $75,000.
“We didn’t miss one dime of that,” Barbara Rippy said. “When you’re good to people, they are good to you. After all the professors did for Bobby to help him become a pharmacist, I told Larry that I wanted to give the College of Pharmacy $1 million so that students for years to come would have the same opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming pharmacists as well,” she explained, recounting her conversation with Larry Craine, her longtime financial advisor.
The lecture hall named after the Rippys in the new pharmacy facility reflects that special bond between student and professors. The state-of-the-art lecture hall is dedicated for pharmacy instruction, making it a vital and highly visible site of shared experience for every MUSC pharmacy student and faculty member.
“Having a dedicated lecture hall for them to learn and interact is essential,” said Chris Wisniewski, Pharm.D., professor and nationally acclaimed expert in pharmacy education. “New space with new technology allows faculty to experiment in the educational realm and identify new ways to educate our students.”
MUSC completes purchase of hospitals see more
Providence Health is no more in the Capital City.
The hospital, originally founded by the Catholic Sister of Charity, is now state-owned MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center, following the finalization of its purchase by MUSC Health University Medical Center.
With the $75 million purchase South Carolina’s second-largest hospital system added Providence’s downtown and northeast facilities to its fleet of care centers around the state, as well as the former KershawHealth hospital in Camden — now known as MUSC Health Kershaw Medical Center — and the emergency room in Fairfield County — now known as MUSC Health Fairfield Emergency and Imaging.
The hospitals were previously owned by Tennessee-based for-profit LifePoint Health.
All of LifePoint’s existing 2,000 employees were offered to remain on staff under the new ownership, said MUSC Health CEO Dr. Pat Cawley said.
The deal takes MUSC to more than 2,000 beds and 19,000 employees across the state.
Buying Providence Health is the latest in MUSC’s major expansion outside of its Charleston base where it had been contained for nearly 200 years before it branched outside the area for the first time with the acquisition of four community hospitals in 2019. The public, nonprofit health system receives financial support out of the state budget.
The deal comes months after Prisma Health, the state’s largest health care system terminated its own agreement to purchase LifePoint’s facilities. Prisma, which operates three major hospitals in Columbia, abandoned its efforts April 9 after it was plagued for more than a year by legal and regulatory challenges.
Had the purchase been finalized, it would have taken the Columbia area down to two hospital systems — Prisma and Lexington Medical Center. And it would have made the state’s largest system even larger.
7 years in a row for MUSC see more
MUSC Health University Medical Center in Charleston was named by U.S. News & World Report for the seventh year in a row as the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina, with three of MUSC Health’s specialty areas ranking among the best in the entire country: ear, nose and throat; gynecology and cancer.
Seventeen other MUSC Health programs are considered “high performing” specialties, procedures or conditions in the 2021-2022 U.S. News & World Report rankings: gastroenterology and GI surgery, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery, heart attack, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, back surgery (spinal fusion), hip replacement, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer surgery, pneumonia, stroke, colon cancer surgery, rheumatology, orthopedics and urology.
In addition, MUSC Health Florence Medical Center is designated as “high performing” in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.
“Once again, South Carolinians can take great pride and comfort in the knowledge that their only public, statewide hospital system is consistently cited as one of the best in the country,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and MUSC vice president for Health Affairs, University. “It’s a transformational time in health care and these rankings are a testament to our care team’s commitment to ensure that our patients are receiving the right care, in the right place and at the right time. The achievements in our Charleston and Florence divisions made despite the pandemic should remind us all what’s possible through innovation, teamwork, and growth.”
U.S. News & World Report unveiled the 32th edition of the Best Hospitals rankings at https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings. Designed to help patients with life-threatening or rare conditions identify hospitals that excel in treating the most difficult cases, Best Hospitals 2021-22 includes consumer-friendly data and information on 4,750 medical centers nationwide in 15 specialties and 17 procedures and conditions. In the 15 specialty areas, 175 hospitals were ranked in at least one specialty. In rankings by state and metro area, U.S. News & World Report recognized hospitals as high performing across multiple areas of care.
“I am so proud that U.S. News & World Report has recognized MUSC Health Florence Medical Center as high performing in four areas – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure,” said Jay Hinesley, MUSC Health Florence Division CEO. “The last year has been a challenge for everyone in health care, and these recognitions are a true testament to all the hard work of our care team members and their dedication to our patients, families and communities. We are committed to continuing to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina and beyond.”
The U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals methodologies, in most areas of care, are based largely or entirely on objective measures such as risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, volume, patient experience, patient safety and quality of nursing, among other care-related indicators.
1. - U.S. News & World Report’s produced Best Hospitals with RTI International, a leading research organization based in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Another SC start-up is making good see more
During a procedure with a young patient, Cephus Simmons noticed something wasn’t working as well as it could. Part of the child’s small intestine had slid into the large intestine, causing an obstruction that can be life threatening for small children.
But the catheter used to keep the bladder flowing wasn’t staying firmly in place.
“It became frustrating to me, and it was something that medically I knew wasn’t correct, and something that needed to be fixed,” said Simmons, a Ph.D. and radiology assistant at the Medical University of South Carolina.
The catheter the MUSC team was using, called a Foley catheter, features a balloon to hold it in place internally. After the procedure, Simmons drew up his idea for a different kind of catheter that would have two balloons, one to be placed on the inside and one on the outside of the body. He founded SealCath in 2013.
While Simmons says it solves the problems that were at hand during that procedure, the catheter he developed can be used for colonoscopies and more. It’s also made to work for both pediatric and adult patients.
But it took several years after founding of the company for the catheter to become available on the market. Simmons worked on the effort from his home in Mount Pleasant in between his clinical time at MUSC, getting little sleep.
The company quickly began to take off in 2018. Simmons was awarded a research grant that year from the National Institutes of Health.
The S.C. Research Authority, a tech accelerator program that receives state funding, also enrolled SealCath in its SC Launch program for startups in 2018. The program gives companies mentorship and capital in order to grow.
SealCath went to market in the summer of 2019. Then, Simmons secured a patent in Canada in 2020.
When COVID-19 shut hospitals’ doors to many patients, visitors and vendors, SealCath also had to shut down temporarily. Business picked back up by the end of 2020, and now Simmons plans to bring to market a silicon version of his catheter this fall — it’s available in latex for now, and some buyers are concerned about allergies to the material.
Innovations in the life sciences are some of the most promising in Charleston’s burgeoning technology industry.
Health care technology, along with biotech and pharmaceuticals, make up two of the state’s top three startup industries, according to an annual analysis by BIP Capital. Still, in terms of the amount of outside funding coming in, South Carolina’s startups can’t match the size of Georgia’s, North Carolina’s, Florida’s or Tennessee’s in the Southeast.
SealCath is one of a number of successful spin-offs to come from researchers and clinicians at MUSC.
Simmons didn’t imagine becoming the CEO of a startup company when he decided to go into medicine.
“Innovation does the same thing as what I’ve been doing my whole career, which is helping patients,” he said. “If you find the right product that’s going to improve health care, then innovation is actually just as good or better than what I’ve been doing the whole time as far as taking care of my patients.”
Simmons plans to retire from MUSC, which he now counts among his customers, this year and take his catheter on the road to market it to other hospitals. His long-term goal is to export the device to Canada.
Simmons graduated from Walterboro High School. He is married with four children.
Goal to develop innovative products focused on improving the health of state residents see more
The Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Surgery Human-Centered Design Program and The Citadel Tommy and Victoria Baker School of Business Innovation Lab will collaborate on a joint effort.
The program will create a core team of medical students, residents and Citadel cadets and students who will develop innovative products focused on improving the health of state residents, MUSC said in a news release.
Both programs similarly promote innovative thinking. The BSB Innovation Lab focuses on teaching students the value of ground-breaking thinking and offers then the chance and guidance to invent and helm business ideas, build out a business plan and pitch ideas to investors.
MUSC’s HCD program was founded to develop original ways to solve unmet surgical and medical needs. The program is led by Joshua Kim and was established under the leadership of chief of surgical oncology Dr. David Mahvi and vice chair of research Michael Yost, Ph.D.
The two programs were brought together in March 2020 when the country faced protective mask shortages, particularly N-95 versions, as the pandemic picked up pace.
During that time, Kim’s team of biomedical engineers and medical professionals developed plans for 3D-printed masks. The BSB Innovation Lab then collaborated with MUSC to print more than 500 masks to help to resolve the region’s shortage.
“Through this new partnership, we can seamlessly innovate a design, develop a business plan and produce products that improve patient care,” said Mahvi.
By coming together, the partnership promotes collaboration, academic growth and learning opportunities students may not have experienced in their respective schools. Residents and medical students are immersed in business training and entrepreneurship skills, while business students are exposed to the health care system.
By working together, Capt. James Bezjian, director of the Innovation Lab and an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in the Baker School of Business, said the schools are able to work on projects that have “life-changing” capabilities.
“The relationship the BSB Innovation Lab built with MUSC during the height of the pandemic provided an opportunity for us to partner and continue working toward improving the lives of medical professionals and the patients they take care of,” Bezjian said.
Hospitals are currently part of LifePoint Health see more
During the June meeting, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees voted to purchase Providence Health and KershawHealth, which are currently part of LifePoint Health. The acquisition will include three community hospitals, a freestanding emergency department (FSED) and affiliated physician practice locations serving communities in the Midlands.
Providence Health serves Columbia, S.C., and the surrounding region, with two full-service hospitals and a freestanding emergency room. KershawHealth is a full-service medical center located in Camden, S.C., which has been an affiliate of MUSC Health since 2015.
“This is an exciting day for MUSC and for the state as we continue to develop our network with the acquisition of these health care facilities and establish a larger footprint in rural and underserved counties,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “As the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, we understand that we have a responsibility to enable better access to complex, high-end care while working to facilitate the best-quality local care possible. This acquisition will broaden our ability to serve greater numbers of patients, families and communities and that is a reason to celebrate,” Cole stated.
“MUSC has tremendous potential to meet the growing needs of patients and families around our state. That is why we are excited about today’s announcement. As the only comprehensive health sciences facility in the state, with an unmatched record of patient care and meaningful research, MUSC has the unique capacity to improve health outcomes for those it serves,” said James Lemon, D.M.D., chairman of the MUSC board.
“We are excited about the prospect of joining MUSC Health,” said Terry Gunn, market chief executive officer of Providence Health and KershawHealth. “Our objective is and has always been positioning our facilities for success so that we can fulfill our purpose of delivering high-quality care close to home. Aligning Providence and Kershaw with a preeminent regional academic health system will benefit our employees, providers and community, giving us new opportunities to change what’s possible in health care for our region.”
“This acquisition has the potential to be transformative for the Midlands and state,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and vice president for Health Affairs, University. “Our team looks forward to welcoming the patients, families and employees of Providence Health and KershawHealth to the MUSC Health network. We cannot wait to move forward, connecting our education, research and comprehensive health care mission to the three hospitals in Columbia and Camden as well as the freestanding emergency department in Winnsboro and the affiliated practice locations across the Midlands.”
MUSC Health anticipates hiring all active employees in good standing at compensation levels generally consistent with current rates and fair market value. MUSC team members will meet with the administrators at each of the facilities to determine staffing and needs, with the intent to make operations as efficient and successful as possible, maximizing value to patients, families and their respective communities.
“MUSC Health has existing relationships with several of these facilities through our longstanding affiliate network,” Cawley explained. “Incorporating them into our regional hospital network is another step toward fulfilling MUSC’s charge: to provide the right care in the right place at the right time to every patient and family that we encounter. This acquisition supports these efforts by increasing the reach of our network, enhancing our ability to deliver the highest- quality care at maximum efficiency as well as greater value for more communities statewide. We are excited to be fully integrated now with KershawHealth and will continue to work with our present partners and affiliates in the Midlands region to increase health care access and improve health outcomes.”
Terms of the transaction have not yet been disclosed. The transaction can only be finalized after review and approval by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, which provides fiscal oversight for the state and meets the public sector needs by delivering quality, cost-effective insurance, procurement and engineering services. In addition, other customary regulatory reviews must also be completed.
The MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees serve as separate bodies to govern the university and hospital. For more information about the MUSC Board of Trustees, visit http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/leadership/board/index.html.
About The Medical University of South Carolina
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality patient care available while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan and nearly 325 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2020, for the sixth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.
MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $3.4 billion. The more than 17,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.
About Providence Health
Providence Health is one of the top-rated health systems in Columbia, SC. In total, Providence employs more than 1,800 dedicated staff. Founded in 1938 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Providence is known statewide for outstanding clinical quality and compassionate care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services awarded Providence Health a 4-star rating. The Providence open heart surgery program has consistently ranked in the top 15 percent of open heart programs in the nation. Both orthopedics and cardiac services have received the South Carolina BlueCross BlueShield Blue Distinction Center designation. For more information, visit YourProvidenceHealth.com.
Founded in 1913 as Camden Hospital, KershawHealth is a full-service healthcare system proudly serving its community members in Kershaw County. KershawHealth is a 119-bed medical center and a 20-bed geriatric psychiatric unit. KershawHealth employs more than 700 dedicated staff. For more information, visit www.KershawHealth.org.
About LifePoint Health
LifePoint Health is a leading healthcare company dedicated to Making Communities Healthier®. Through its subsidiaries, it provides quality inpatient, outpatient and post-acute services close to home. LifePoint owns and operates community hospitals, regional health systems, physician practices, outpatient centers and post-acute facilities across the country. More information about the company can be found at www.LifePointHealth.net.
Okra debuts only solution in the nation with verified DEA licensed lab results see more
After four-and-a-half years of testing, Okra Medical has perfected its formula for destroying addictive controlled substances, rendering them 100% non-retrievable and irreversible.
This product, called SafeMedWaste, is the only solution in the nation with verified Drug Enforcement Administration licensed lab results. Besides incineration, the solution is the only tested way to completely break down controlled pharmaceutical substances so that they cannot be reused by humans or animals.
SafeMedWaste’s formula covers more than 30 types of Schedule I-IV liquid, pill and patch controlled substances, including opioids, cannabis, narcotics and benzodiazepines. It has been patented in the U.S. and is now waiting on approval in other parts of the world.
“We’ve hired an independent lab out of Michigan that has done all of our testing,” said Marshall Hartmann, CEO of the company founded in 2018 on Johns Island. “They have verified that our product in nature covers a wide range of controlled substances, where no other product has that proof of efficacy.”
With onsite denaturation, SafeMedWaste works with Drug Enforcement Administration registrants, such as opioid manufacturers, hospitals, surgery centers and law enforcement agencies, to dispose of substances quickly and effectively at a low-cost.
Rather than having to safely transport discarded substances to incinerators and landfills in an expensive process, sites with a SafeMedWaste container simply dispose of products inside, where molecules will be broken down and chemically denatured to its basic elements.
Destroyed products can then be thrown away as nonhazardous waste, also reducing the environmental impact of incineration. Denatured controlled substances do not leach into landfills either.
This process also prevents the chance of diversion, in which an individual’s prescribed controlled substance is transferred to someone else for illicit use, Hartmann said.
“Our current compatible drug list encompasses every drug that you’ll find in a hospital or prescribed to a patient that’s commonly abused in society,” said Justin Stas, the company’s chief technology officer. “We focused on what the DEA was seeing people abuse, what people were dying from and what was being diverted by health care workers and people in health care settings.”
The product comes in different sizes, including a 55-gallon drum for places like law enforcement agencies or pharmaceutical companies, where substances accumulate quickly. Substances of different kinds can be disposed of in these containers simultaneously.
“A lot of facilities store active drugs, so our product gives them the ability to destroy stuff onsite without harboring those drugs in a container, waiting for pickup,” Stas said. “So it completely renders them inert at the facility, stopping that ability for diversion until incineration.”
Okra Medical is also awaiting a grant to conduct a home-use product clinical study. This product would allow individual consumers to disable drugs right in their own home through the use of a smaller-sized SafeMedWaste container.
“Most people get addicted to opioids from taking them from a friend or family’s medicine cabinet, so we’re trying to help solve that problem with this product,” Hartmann said.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 76% of people who use prescription drugs non-medically gain access to them from someone they know.
While the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended method of at-home disposal includes flushing drugs down the toilet or covering them with undesirable substances like coffee grounds or kitty litter to discourage retrieval, these methods are not 100% effective, Stas said.
“Flushing puts the drugs back into our water supply, and we’ve had conversations with the wastewater treatment facility in Greenville, and like most facilities nationwide, they cannot remove pharmaceuticals from water supplies,” Stas said. “They don’t have the technology or the funding to be able to do that.”
“Our product destroys them, making them inert so they’re not going into the water supply; they can’t be used in the landfill,” Stas said. “With coffee grounds, they go into the landfill, but they’re not rendered, not destroyed at all. They’re just covered in coffee grounds or kitty litter.”
Although Okra Medical originally planned to launch the product during second quarter 2020, the pandemic delayed the process. As the primary focus of hospitals became battling COVID-19 rather than changing procedures on disposing controlled substances, the company has shifted sights to ambulatory surgical centers in its future launch. They also plan to continue testing to expand the list to include chemotherapeutics and steroids, Hartmann said.
MUSC spinoff helps to manage pharmacy costs for hospitals see more
A Medical University of South Carolina spinoff that built a software platform to help health care systems monitor and manage their pharmaceutical costs has raised more capital.
QuicksortRx Inc. did not disclose the size of the investment round in a written statement issued June 15, saying it was a private transaction.
The company, which has moved its headquarters to the recently completed Charleston Tech Center on Morrison Drive, also has added two local industry veterans to its board.
The new directors at QuicksortRx are Shawn Jenkins and Steve Swanson, who provided the investment capital.
Jenkins is co-founder and the former CEO of Benefitfocus Inc., a Nasdaq-listed traded software firm based on Daniel Island that he helped take public in 2013. He also became a primary benefactor of the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital after he pledged to donate $25 million toward the $390 million project in 2015.
Swanson ran Automated Trading Desk in Mount Pleasant before selling the financial technology business to Wall Street giant Citigroup for $680 million in 2007. He currently serves on the boards of the Bank of South Carolina, YESCarolina and the College of Charleston, among other organizations.
“We are excited to welcome two of Charleston’s great tech business leaders who have shown not only their expertise in building amazing companies, but also their commitment to the Charleston community,” said Jonathan Yantis, CEO of QuicksortRx.
Yantis and co-founder Matt Hebbard launched the company within the MUSC Innovation Center in 2016. The early goal was create a software platform that would allow the sprawling health system to track its pharmaceutical supply chain in real time and make purchasing adjustments to help lower medication expenses.
It was later spun off as AscendRx before being renamed last year.
“Our tools are helping health systems around the country realize millions of dollars in pharmacy purchase savings without increasing workloads for staff,” QuicksortRx said on its website.
Vikor Scientific Launches KOR Medical, Plans to “Set the Standard” in Personalized Clinical Cannabis TreatmentFormer SCBIO exec Sam Konduros to lead KOR Medical see more
Former SCBIO CEO Sam Konduros named President and Chief Executive Officer
of new Vikor Scientific health innovation company
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – May 4, 2021 – Continuing its rapid expansion as one of South Carolina’s fastest growing life sciences and healthcare firms, Charleston-headquartered Vikor Scientific announced that it is launching health innovation company KOR Medical “to set a new industry standard in the arena of personalized clinical cannabis to benefit patients afflicted with diseases ranging from epilepsy to cancer, and to help alleviate the nation’s opioid addiction crisis.”
According to KOR Medical Managing Partners and Vikor Scientific Co-Founders Scotty Branch and Shea Harrelson, the company is exploring locations nationwide for its initial state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar operation.
“KOR Medical will be a highly innovative organization that will bring a new blueprint and novel value proposition to the national clinical cannabis marketplace, powered by an AI and blockchain supported seed to sale platform,” said Mr. Branch. “Coupled with a relentless commitment to personalized medicine and rigorous compliance and purity, KOR will focus on providing clinicians with the tools and data they need to support leading-edge treatment protocols for the needs of each unique patient.”
In addition to former South Carolina Biotechnology Industry Organization (SCBIO) chief executive Sam Konduros, a seasoned business leader and attorney who will serve as president and CEO, KOR Medical is also onboarding four senior executives that bring multi-disciplinary expertise and experience in the clinical cannabis industry – including Joseph Strauss, who will serve as COO and executive vice president. Mr. Strauss brings more than a decade of immersive experience in the industry across multiple states to KOR, including Oregon, California, Colorado, and Florida. Other corporate appointees championing sales and marketing, cultivation and innovation, and government and legal affairs will be announced in early Summer.
“Mr. Konduros will lead all aspects of the company’s business and serve on the board of directors of both KOR Medical and Vikor Scientific to provide insights regarding the strategic direction of our portfolio of companies as we expand in the US and globally,” said Mr. Branch. “Sam is the epitome of a world class CEO. We look forward to watching him execute our mission with the support of an extraordinary executive team who will enable KOR Medical to achieve its vision to help transform healthcare.”
Armed with a comprehensive business plan and finalization of its laboratory-grade indoor growing facility design, KOR Medical is currently forging key industry and business partnerships with numerous entities with established track records in the cannabis industry. KOR Medical expects to confirm its initial US location of operations by mid-Summer 2021, with the site becoming a model for future expansion across the nation. KOR is planning its initial product launch during 2021, followed by full-scale production in 2022.
New Jersey firm expands into South Carolina see more
Courtesy of Charleston Regional Business Journal
A biopharmaceutical company has opened a Goose Creek facility as part of its goal to establish 10 or more collection centers around the country by 2024, the company said in a news release..
New Jersey-based ADMA Biologics Inc. is an end-to-end commercial biopharmaceutical company dedicated to manufacturing, marketing and developing specialty plasma-derived biologics.
Adam Grossman, president and CEO, said South Carolina and Gov. Henry McMaster expressed strong support for opening the new facility.
“The state’s impressive infrastructure and skilled workforce create a terrific foundation for ADMA to safely collect and process plasma, and we look forward to continuing to grow our operations in the state now and in the coming years,” he said in a statement.
McMaster was on hand April 23 for a ribbon cutting ceremony, which Grossman said helped create an even stronger beginning for the company.
Beneath the corporate umbrella, ADMA has seven plasma collection facilities at various stages of approval and development. The Lowcountry plasma center, located at 214 Saint James Ave., is the newest and is projected to need up to 50 health care workers at full capacity.
“Securing raw material plasma supply has never been more important than it is today, and we believe the series of recent acquisitions of plasma collection facilities validates this scarcity value,” Grossman said.
The Goose Creek center includes automated registration, high-tech collection equipment designed to shorten the donation process, free WiFi and individual flat-screen TVs at each donor station and trained, certified staff.
The company is on track to achieve its 2024 goal and Grossman said the expansion will support ADMA’s goal of producing “quarter-over-quarter revenue growth throughout 2021 and beyond.” The Goose Creek operations also will help ADAM create a fully integrated and self-sufficient plasma supply chain, ensure continuity of product supply and generate asset value for shareholders, the company said.
ADMA plans to file an application for a biologics license and anticipates a standard 12-month BLA review period by the Food and Drug Administration.
Until then, ADMA is allowed to collect plasma donations on site. Following the FDA’s approval, the company can then use the collections for further use in the manufacturing of life-saving therapies.
Vigilent Labs to distribute COVID-19 test kits and digital health credentials see more
Enables Vigilent Labs to distribute COVID-19 test kits and digital health credentials to government organizations through GSA schedule
Vigilent Labs, an advanced health and medical technology company that provides solutions for the detection, identification and assessment of health and bio-threats, has formed a partnership with Seroclinix and Davenport Aviation to distribute COVID-19 test kits and Vigilent Labs v.Pass digital credential technology through Davenport Aviation’s General Services Administration (GSA) Contract.
“Our government division has worked on adding much-needed medical supplies to our GSA contract to meet our nation’s most pressing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rob McMillin, Davenport’s Senior Program Manager. “We are pleased to partner with Vigilent Labs and Seroclinix to provide test kits to government customers through our GSA Contract (#GS-07F-139DA).”
The COVID-19 Rapid Test kit partnership with SeroClinix’s cost-effective SIENNA Antibody Tests produces fast, reliable and accurate results in seven to 10 minutes, which are CE-marked useful for COVID-19 screening and surveillance under CDC guidance, recently received high marks fro3m the latest International Journal of Infectious Diseases evaluation, and now authorized and approved for purchase through GSA Advantage. A critical advantage of this partnership is the Vigilent Labs “v.LABS” platform and its ability to convert the SIENNA test results into a digital credential that includes one’s COVID-19 Test Results in a v.PASS, facilitating near-real-time health surveillance.
“Vigilent Labs leverages our existing capability with leading-edge technology to provide a comprehensive solution to the medical community from the Point Of Care environment to the executives and managers responsible for healthcare decision making,” said John Falk, President of Vigilent Labs. “We are proud of this strategic partnership and to provide quality testing and credential solutions to government organizations.”
This partnership marks an important milestone for Vigilent Labs as an authorized GSA/Government reseller and distributor for COVID-19 Antigen and Antibody test kits in the United States for the United States government.
“We are excited for our partnership with Vigilent Labs in providing fast and effective test kits for the government,” said Howard Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Seroclinix. “These tests are not only cost-effective but also have the highest reviews made by independent medical evaluations as to the accuracy of the test.”
To learn more about Vigilent Labs’ solutions for COVID-19 testing and monitoring, visit www.vigilentlabs.com.
About Vigilent Labs
Vigilent Labs is an advanced health and medical technology company that provides solutions for the detection, identification and assessment of health and bio-threats. The company provides point-of-care (POC) medical testing devices, initially centered on the COVID-19 pandemic, paired with a comprehensive digital health and credentialing platform that offers near real-time tracking of disease. Founded in 2019, Vigilent Labs is headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, with additional manufacturing and production facilities in Laramie, Wyoming and throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.vigilentlabs.com.
Vikor Scientific and Quantgene announce major advance in precision genomics see more
Starting this March, a South Carolina lab will become ground zero for a preventative test that can detect cancer-causing mutations, risks or tumors in advance through a quick blood sample taken at home or a physician’s office.
S.C. life science organization SCBio and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance linked together Charleston’s Vikor Scientific and California’s Quantgene Inc. when the West Coast company was on the hunt for a lab that could commercialize its AI and genomic-powered preventative care program, Serenity.
Serenity puts to task a deep genomic sequence process that covers 20,000 genes in combination with the disease, medication and lifestyle risks that could contribute to multiple variations of cancer. Along with the blood test, or “liquid biopsy,” it can detect cancerous mutations in the blood, according to Vikor Scientific co-founder Shea Harrelson.
“What this means is that we can detect cancer early enough so that patients don’t have to resort to chemotherapy,” she said during SCBio’s Virtual Meeting Wednesday morning. “They may have options for immunotherapy or aggressive preventative strategies or even excisional therapy.”
Patient-specific health profiles covering personal and family history, as well as lifestyle choices, will brief analysts on how additional risks may contribute to a patient’s likelihood of developing early-stage cancer, thus prompting preventative care.
“With Serenity, we are first-to-market in combining liquid biopsy cancer detection with whole exome sequencing and advanced medical intelligence,” Johannes Bhakdi, founder and CEO of Quantgene, said in a news release. “We hope to unlock a new era in medicine in which trained physicians can detect multiple cancers at early stages in the blood with single molecule precision. Serenity brings genomic technologies to patients within an innovative system of preventative care that we believe will set a new standard in patient-centered personalized medicine. We are excited to take this important step with our partners at Vikor Scientific.”
Vikor Scientific, a hub for medical testing, will process test results in collaboration with Serenity’s proprietary cloud for both individual end-users and health care professionals.
The South Carolina company will launch its public awareness and physician education campaigns alongside the concierge-product release on March 1, according to Scotty Branch, co-founder of Vikor Scientific, and will soon build out its current location in Charleston.
“Our number one goal is to educate physicians throughout the country, which is what we do best,” Branch told GSA Business Report, adding that the team is working to get insurance companies on board with the treatment program now.
“Until then, the liquid biopsy, or the early detection portion, will be on a concierge or cash-paid basis,” he said.
Vikor Scientific will conduct whole exome sequencing and send that information to the Serenity cloud for both physicians and individual consumers, potentially for a variety of uses.
While existing genetic tests on the market like those sold by 23 and Me may be able to offer a surface level detection of certain cancer-causing genetic variations in a patient, Serenity takes genomic testing to the next step of preventative treatment, the company said.
“Genetic mutations only play a role in about 5% to 10% of cancer,” Harrelson said. “So, there’s about 90-95% of cancers that don’t have genetic mutations, and without that, you still have a lot of familial cancers. And most people die from cancer than heart disease or automobile accidents, so this liquid biopsy test will be very important, because if patients have put stress on their body or smoke or other risk factors that can increase their chance for cancer, this liquid biopsy test is pretty painless and a great screening tool for this and other cancers that … like pancreatic cancer. We often don’t find out about pancreatic cancer until stage three or four.”
Taking into account detected at-risk genetic variations, the Vikor-Quantgene team will analyze additional risks for early stages of cancer through the liquid biopsy test, in lieu of more invasive measures, which can detect whether nascent tumors are forming in the body.
“It’s a great continuum of care,” he added. The test analysis could then be used, in tandem with additional data, to launch preventative treatment and care.
“We need to use liquid biopsy as part of an annual or bi-annual screening,” Branch said.
After a Monday Vikor Scientific Board meeting, Branch said 99% of the plans for the facility buildout have been nailed down. The full announcement will come when the company approves the final portion of its development strategy.
“This is an amazing announcement for South Carolina and for economic development, where we are going to build out at our location at 22 West Edge, where Vikor’s location is currently,” he said. The company will start small with 10 to 20 new employees and scale up from there. “That is exciting news that a corporate hub would be located here in Charleston’s West Edge Medical Innovation District."