PMLS picks new Chief Commercial Officer for fast-growing organization see more
Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS) is announcing today Jeff Schmalz as their new Chief Commercial Officer. At PMLS, Jeff will be focusing on the major disciplines impacting lab growth including partnerships, product development, clinical outreach, sales infrastructure, customer service and marketing. With 35 years of experience in multiple healthcare organizations, he brings extensive knowledge in the diagnostics and reference lab markets.
In his latest role, he led the segment marketing and business development team responsible for integrating specialty labs, technology, and test launches that contributed to several hundred million in additional revenue growth. Jeff also oversaw the launching, branding, and commercializing of Lab Developed Tests (LTDS) over a period of 15 years for 25 test classes resulting in over $400M per year in revenue. He has founded, developed, and launched international partnerships to carry out his sales initiatives and maximize overall market share.
“I chose to work at Premier Medical Laboratory Services because they’re an innovative and nimble company with all of the components in place to make them a national leading specialty lab,” said Jeff Schmalz. “They lead with a forward-thinking approach to unmet needs within the healthcare industry and continually build on their capabilities to bring the most advanced medical diagnostics services for better patient outcomes…and that’s something I want to be a part of and advance forward.”
As a graduate and scholarship athlete from the University of Maryland, Jeff pursued an executive management MBA curriculum from the Kellogg School of Management. Since then, he has served as a board member for the Biomedical Marketing Association and successfully launched products at Abbot, Chiron, LabCorp, Digene, Bayer and Qiagen. He managed a team of 53 segment leaders, product managers, and marketing communication strategists by positive motivation, leading by example, and empowering them to make decisions and take initiative.
“We are at an integral phase in our growth here at Premier Medical Laboratory Services as a top lab with the mission to bring the most advanced diagnostics to our nation,” said Kevin Murdock, CEO and Founder of PMLS. “The level of talent and experience that Jeff Schmalz possesses will help us tremendously in fulfilling our vision of improving patient lives.”
ABOUT PREMIER MEDICAL LABORATORY SERVICES
Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS), based in Greenville, South Carolina, is an advanced molecular diagnostics lab fully certified by top laboratory accrediting organizations, including CLIA and COLA. With the most advanced laboratory information systems (LIS) easy to read one-page test result reports are generated with higher accuracy and a customizable report for each client. PMLS prides itself on having some of the most rapid turnaround times for testing results in the industry. Their expansive testing menu includes Pharmacogenomics, COVID-19 testing, Advanced Cardiovascular Testing, Diabetes, Women's Wellness panels, Allergen Specific Ige Blood Testing, Toxicology, and a first of its kind predictive genetic test for type II diabetes, DIABETESPredict. For more information, please visit www.PreMedInc.com
Upstate company makes its mark see more
Ahh, that fresh, crisp aroma of a craft beer — your tongue tingles at the first whiff. The concoction in question may have the fragrance of a “juicy, double-dry-hopped IPA,” a popular locally brewed label on tap here, but Do-Not-Drink-This-Stuff. It’s hand sanitizer.
“It was like, wow, this stuff actually still smells like Bluprint, one of our IPAs,” says Shawn Johnson, co-owner of Birds Fly South Ale Project, which teamed with Parimer Scientific at the onset of the pandemic to make a pharmaceutical-grade product for local health care providers.
Which is why the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership recognized Parimer last November with an SCMEP COVID-19 Response Award. In September, the South Carolina Research Authority bestowed Parimer a coveted “Member Company” status, noting that the company shipped more than 10,000 pharmaceutical units in 2020.
Dick Pace, 33, owner and principal scientist, launched the company three years ago. Today, Parimer, which is known as a “contract research organization,” provides turnkey chemical solutions, custom compounds, polymers and way more complicated stuff, along with R&D.
Customers, so far, have included farmers and academia and now Big Pharma, Pace says. Within six months, Parimer was operating in the black and has grown from its $3,000 in startup costs to more than $600,000 annually, he says.
Mike Klepfer, Parimer’s vice president of business development, joined the company in July. The Air Force veteran, who has lived in the Upstate for 21 years, has worked for the likes of Bayer and Merck.
After the pandemic forced Klepfer to close his 4-year-old executive-recruitment shop, he arrived at Parimer when the company’s year-over-year growth was already around 25%, he says. Now, with mega-deals in the pipeline from marquee companies — all under non-disclosure agreements — he sees near-term growth upwards of 100%.
Quite a pace for Pace, who found himself overqualified to work as a scientist in his native Greenville after earning his Ph.D. in bioengineering from Clemson in 2014. This even though he had already published at least nine papers and presented at conferences from Denver to Paris. He also worked at the French version of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (he speaks fluent French) and on NIH and Department of Defense grants, among other accomplishments.
“We are excited to partner with Parimer on their growth path. The specialty laboratory services they are offer is unique to the Greenville area and they are one of only two operations in South Carolina approved as an active pharmaceutical-Ingredient manufacturer. ” — Steve Johnson, South Carolina Research Authority investment manager
He applied for 250 jobs. Two companies responded, he says, their highest salary offers coming in at $35,000 a year. “I felt that I had skills to offer, but I wasn’t able to market those, and the pay rate is so low for Ph.D. scientists, so I thought, how hard would it be to make $40K on my own?” Now he hires young scientists in similar straits, while he also avoids the entrepreneurial pitfalls — and failures — he saw in multiple life sciences startups.
“People were buying this extremely expensive equipment and they were having to hire scientists to run it,” he says. “And almost always, the senior owners of these companies were venture capitalists.”
Among his hires is Victoria Bobo. In 2015, she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Converse College (now University), then her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 2020. Like Pace, she wanted to stay and work in her native Upstate.
“I had the misfortune of graduating during the pandemic when no one was hiring,” says Bobo, 28, who joined Parimer after sending out, according to Pace, some 150 job applications.
Bobo is Parimer’s “Quality Chemist.” But like her three colleagues at the Easley lab, she does everything else there, too.
As Klepfer says, “We all take the trash out each week and we vacuum the floors and clean the lab and do all the stuff that needs to be done to maintain the business.”
“We’re totally happy,” Pace says. “It’s doing what we’re doing and not making, you know, $300K. Maybe one day, but not yet. I started this to basically provide myself a job, and now we’re able to provide others a job, and that’s really, really rewarding.”
The quick Pace of delivering FDA-grade hand sanitizer
Dick Pace recalls driving to Birds Fly South Ale Project at the outset of the pandemic to load his truck with 500 gallons of beer and bring it to his laboratory.
At Parimer Scientific in Easley, where he is owner and principal scientist, his team concocted a hand sanitizer that would meet FDA specifications for use in hospitals—at a pharmaceutical strength the agency categorizes as an over-the-country drug, Pace says.
After winning FDA approval in just two weeks, Pace began frequenting Ace Hardware and Home Depot to build his own production line for distilling BFS’s beer to 95% alcohol, bottling the new product, labeling and shipping it.
In roughly five weeks, with everyone scrambling for the stuff, Birds Fly South sold Parimer, at cost, somewhere around 180 barrels of nearly expired beer, says Shawn Johnson, owner of the Hampton Station craft brewer along with his wife, Lindsay.
Pace says the two businesses—emphasis on local—churned out some 30,000 bottles until the big manufacturers finally stepped up.
A bunch of those containers went to Greenville Office Supply. Turns out, McLain Scales, the venerable company’s Director of Sales-Janitorial and Facility, grew up with Pace.
GOS couldn’t sell below-FDA-grade product to its hospital clients and first-responder customers, among others, he says.
“So we had to get creative with our partners, and fortunately Parimer Scientific had all the knowledge on how to manufacture it,” he says, adding that GOS ultimately sold more than 6,000 Parimer bottles — complete with the Birds Fly South logo.
The Johnsons credit Parimer with helping keep their business afloat and some of their employees employed. They could also sell two-ounce bottles, which Parimer provided at cost, Lindsay says.
Of Pace and their brief stint as hand-sanitizer partners, Shawn says, “It’s a testament to ingenuity — he’s an incredibly smart man — and to the agility of small business and the connection to the community.”Parimer Scientific’s team says their equipment room is one of the best equipped labs in SC, but to the untrained eye it doesn’t look like much. However, they are able to take any product or chemical and reverse engineer it to figure out exactly what it makes up.
Pace’s Parimer People
Mike Klepfer, vice president of Business Development
Worked in biotech, pharmaceuticals and medical device companies. Sales rep for such global med-tech giants as Stryker, Bayer and Merck
Five years in the Air Force, leaving as captain, serving as a supply and logistics officer. Citadel graduate, class of 1995
Victoria Bobo, quality chemist, joined Parimer in October 2020
Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry — University of South Carolina, 2020
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, with a minor in Spanish — Converse College, 2015
Stephen Lee, Research Manager at Parimer since November 2020
M.S. in Chemistry — Georgia Tech, 2011.
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009.
Adjunct instructor at Greenville Technical and Spartanburg Community colleges for more than a year each.
Work experience includes technical assistant at Milliken & Co. and certifying scientist at LabSource in Greenville, among others.
Womble Bond Dickinson provide insight into telehealth during the pandemic see more
- Telehealth greatly expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, in large part due to regulatory waivers. Those regulatory waivers aren’t permanent, but lawmakers are evaluating ways to permanently expand some aspects of telehealth coverage.
- While the HHS OIG recognizes the importance that telehealth plays in our healthcare system and will continue to evaluate new telehealth policies and technologies so as to improve care, it will also strive to ensure that they are not compromised by fraud, abuse, and misuse.
- Through recent telehealth policies and funding, the government is working to improve healthcare equity and resources for telehealth.
While the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health and economic concern, companies are adapting and adjusting, finding new and better ways to do business moving forward. Womble Bond Dickinson is taking a comprehensive look at this new Opportunity Economy from a wide range of viewpoints. Recently, Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Alissa Fleming and Toni Peck explored the pandemic-inspired expansion of telehealth services and how such measures can benefit patients and providers alike moving forward. They recently spoke to Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Mark Henriques on an episode of the “In-house Roundhouse” podcast, and the article below is based on that conversation.
The telehealth boom during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly every American. Changes made during the public health emergency promise to permanently transform the delivery and availability of healthcare. While these changes were made in rapid response to the pandemic, providers and patients alike discovered that telehealth—providing healthcare remotely via technology—offers advantages and efficiencies that make sense to continue even as the pandemic ends.
Healthcare is perhaps the most highly regulated sector of the economy, so extending telehealth post-pandemic will require regulatory reform as well as consumer demand.
The State of Telehealth in the Late-Stage Pandemic
Telehealth isn’t a new idea. As Peck said, “Prior to the pandemic, there was an interest from providers and patients, but there were restrictions and limitations that kept telehealth from being as popular as it currently is.”
For example, providers faced geographic restrictions for where they could serve patients. Only certain types of technology could be used. And only a limited number of telehealth services were eligible for reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and private payors.
A study published in JAMA Network Open found that telehealth services grew by 1,000 percent in March 2020 and 4,000 percent in April 2020, with in-person visits declining 23 percent and 52 percent respectively. Those numbers have evened out somewhat, Peck said, but telehealth use remains much more popular than it was pre-pandemic.
“One of the biggest things that has changed has been patient and provider attitudes—we’re more willing to use it,” Peck said.
Also, federal and state governments have lifted many of the previous geographic restrictions temporarily. Technology requirements have been relaxed temporarily to allow for the inclusion of Zoom, FaceTime, and other popular platforms. More services now can be reimbursed, prescription restrictions have been relaxed, and licensure requirements by state medical boards have been eased temporarily.
“Telehealth has been crucial in the past 18 months, especially in championing healthcare equity,” Peck said. “We are better able to reach underserved populations, including rural populations, with telemedicine.”
Not surprisingly, investors have taken notice. Venture capital funding for telehealth reached $15 billion in the first half of 2021, up from $6.3 billion in the first half of 2020.
The rapid increase in telehealth adoption wouldn’t have been possible without regulatory streamlining that came in response to the public health emergency.
“Before the pandemic, telehealth only covered about 100 service areas, primarily those serving beneficiaries in rural areas,” Fleming said. But in early 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded Medicare coverage by adding 140 additional services, regardless of location. This includes ER visits, occupational/physical therapy, hospital discharge day issues and other non-critical care services. Also, a much broader range of providers now may provide these services via telehealth.
“This expansion of Medicare and Medicaid coverage helped to spawn payment for telehealth by private insurance payers,” Fleming said. “In allowing this expansion, the government acknowledged the critical role telehealth plays in expanding healthcare access.”
What’s Next in Telehealth?
But while telehealth has played a critical role in expanding healthcare access during the pandemic, the scope of the relaxed regulations was not intended to be permanent. So when do waivers expire and will they be continued?
Fleming explained that currently, the waivers will stay in effect through the end of the public health emergency or the end of the year. “With the Delta surge and the additional challenges that have come this summer and fall, there has been no further extension of the timetable, but that’s not to say there won’t be,” she said.
Such an extension may have a broad base of support, but it won’t necessarily happen automatically or without additional change.
Over the past several years, federal regulators have scrutinized telehealth arrangements, with a particular concern about fraud and abuse. The pandemic waivers reduced red tape, but federal regulators remain concerned about potential fraud and abuse issues.
“It’s not as easy as we might hope to permanently remove some of the regulatory requirements relaxed during the pandemic,” Fleming said. “Depending on the regulatory concerns, we may not see it expanded on such a broad base as we are seeing during the public health emergency.”
Peck also noted that some waiver expansions will require Congressional action, not just administrative changes.
States also will play a role in the continued, permanent expansion of healthcare. Generally, state regulatory schemes are concerned with licensure and scope of practice issues, while federal regulations deal primarily with reimbursement and the prevention of healthcare fraud, abuse, and misuse. So reforming telehealth regulations will require both federal and state action.
“Some states have already made changes to their licensure rules,” Fleming said. For example, Florida has created a specific telehealth license which allows out-of-state providers to become licensed to provide telehealth services in the state.
“Hopefully, other states will follow suit. It could create a solution to the lack of certain specialists in particular areas,” she said.
The Biden Administration has been busy in addressing telehealth concerns. In August 2021, the Administration announced a $19 million investment in telehealth, going to 36 recipients serving rural areas and underserved communities. This grant money will fund:
- Telehealth technology-enabled learning programs., building mentoring capacity in underserved areas.
- Twelve regional and two national telehealth resource centers. These centers will provide resources, information and education on telehealth to healthcare providers.
- Evidence-based direct-to-consumer telehealth networks. Bypasses some of the service restrictions.
- The creation of telehealth centers of excellence programs. These centers will assess and improve services in rural and underserved areas with high disease and poverty rates. This work will include piloting new services and publishing research.
“This award money is exciting because it provides funding for the growth of the actual telehealth structure,” Fleming said.
Looking Ahead: The Near-Future of Telehealth
Of course, expanded access to telehealth services requires that patients have high-speed broadband internet connections.
“We assume that if telehealth exists that everyone can use it, and that simply is not the case,” Fleming said. Many remote rural areas, in particular, struggle with broadband access. The sweeping federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act seeks to address this disparity by providing $65 billion to expand broadband infrastructure.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also has an expansion of Medicare for telehealth, especially for mental health,” Peck said. “A lot of literature coming out of the pandemic shows that the need for mental health has increased greatly, and telehealth is a good platform for mental health care.”
In July, CMS published its 2022 proposed physician fee schedule. The proposal includes extending telehealth services for certain mental health care through 2023 or even permanently. Fleming said this will remove many barriers for receiving mental health care.
“Studies have shown that over a third of the population lives in an area without mental health providers. There’s a real shortage of providers in this field,” she said.
Another change, in response to the opioid epidemic, is that CMS is proposing that the home can be a site for treating substance abuse disorders.
Finally, CMS is asking providers for data about Category 3 telehealth services. This class of services was created during the pandemic to designate healthcare services that can be provided temporarily via telehealth. CMS is now looking at whether there is sufficient evidence to support permanent telehealth coverage of those services.
“Reimbursement is critical because nobody is going to provide services if they aren’t paid for them,” Peck said.
Reimbursement is one of several complex issues that must be considered during any permanent extension of telehealth exemptions. For example, Peck said that if a matter can be resolved in a five-minute phone call, should it be reimbursed at the same rate as an in-office visit? Other challenges remain, including the low rates of telehealth adoption in low-income and low English proficiency communities.
But even with the challenges, Peck and Fleming believe telehealth will remain an important platform for delivering healthcare services, even after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.
“All in all, if there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that telehealth is a viable option,” Peck said. “Perhaps not by itself—we need to look at how telehealth and in-office visits can work together. But telehealth is a way to have a more efficient, equal healthcare system.”
COVID variant surging in SC see more
When associate professor Julie Hirschhorn, Ph.D., saw the latest results of the Medical University of South Carolina’s sequencing run for COVID variants, she was struck by the absolute dominance of the Delta variant.
“Literally 100%,” the director of MUSC’s Molecular Pathology Lab said. “It kind of boggles my mind. We’re waiting to see what's going to come next. The possibility is that we have hit a branching point where from now on, anything that we see is going to be an offspring of Delta.”
Delta is already a prolific parent variant, spawning a growing number of “sublineages,” or variants with slightly different mutations. Hirschhorn’s colleague, Bailey Glen, Ph.D., is tracking their progress.“They went from there being no Delta sublineages to three to 12. Now we're up to 33, I think,” he said.
“I have never seen that many new lineages pop up quickly,” Hirschhorn said.
What does all of that mean for the public? First of all, the threat to unvaccinated people is clear.“We want them to know that Delta's still very much out there and still very transmissible,” Hirschhorn said.
Second, Glen said, Delta’s mutations serve as a reminder of how important it is to slow the virus’ spread. “The more it spreads the more chance there is for it to mutate, and clearly it can change pretty dramatically and how effectively. We've definitely seen that already. What’s the ceiling on this? How bad can it get? I don't know, but there's no reason to think it can't get worse.”
As for why Delta has been able to vanquish the variant competition so completely, Hirschhorn pointed to its characteristics. “It has mutations in the spike protein that help it get into cells easier. And then some of the other mutations assist in making more copies of the virus itself. So it gets in better and it makes more copies of itself,” she said.
“If you think about virus transmissibility, when we had the original version of the virus, every infected person would infect on average one or two people. And then with the Alpha variant we first saw in the U.K., every person infected would transmit it, on average, to four people. And then with Delta, it transmits on average to seven or eight people.”
Part of the problem may be that Delta causes people to carry higher viral loads, Hirschhorn said. “And so if somebody coughs or you're sitting in a room together and no one's masked, it's going take a shorter period of time to transmit to you.”
The good news is that for now, indications are that the current COVID surge in South Carolina may be easing. In the Charleston Tri-county area, case numbers are still high, but down from the surge’s peak of a couple of weeks ago.
But that doesn’t mean the virus is going away. “One of the things that I do get concerned about when coming off of a curve like this is where we end up, as far as a steady state,” Hirschhorn said, referring to the level where case numbers settle.
“So before Delta hit, we had gotten down to only 1% — it was so low. It's the lowest I'd seen it. My biggest concern is that steady state level of COVID might get stuck at like 5% or 7% or even 10% positivity. And that really doesn't bode well for the next mutated version, because the next wave could result in even higher positivity rates. And if the next variant strain transmits faster, we would start out in a rough spot.”
Her lab is working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to get that message out. “It has been a really positive experience so far. I've had multiple people from DHEC reach out and say, ‘Thank you for sharing your data. This is great. We're so excited.’ I hope that our contribution will help the DHEC website give a clear picture of what's going on,” Hirschhorn said.
She also hopes people use the information to make good decisions. “I guess that's part of this thought process — how do we keep each other safe while still trying to have a life? My best advice is to be kind and think about others. There are ways to get together safely, such as being outside. There are ways to see each other and keep in touch and try to keep that human connection.”
MUSC and Helix launch In Our DNA SC, first-of-its-kind population genomics program to drive preventive, precision health care for South CaroliniansLarge-scale initiative will advance innovative research, improved health outcomes see more
CHARLESTON, S.C. and SAN MATEO, Calif., (Sept. 20, 2021) – The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Helix have announced a strategic collaboration to develop a first-of-its-kind population genomics initiative in South Carolina called In Our DNA SC. The large-scale program is designed to improve health care outcomes by integrating genetic insights into clinical care and research. The statewide initiative will enroll 100,000 patients in genetic testing over the next four years at no cost to the patient.
The program will enable the use of genomic insights with an initial focus on actionable information regarding a patient’s risk for certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The genetic reports will allow patients and their health providers to develop precision health care plans to proactively mitigate the conditions and take a more preventive approach to patient care. Patient enrollment in In Our DNA SC is expected to begin in the fall.
In addition, MUSC and Helix will be developing a robust clinico-genomic dataset from consenting participants that will help researchers learn what can cause certain diseases, how we may be able to treat them more effectively and, possibly, improve the standard care for everyone. This is expected to lay the groundwork for a broader collaboration with other organizations across the health care value chain.
“As South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health sciences center, delivering the highest quality care throughout the state is our top priority,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “Precision medicine is an emerging field that is going to transform the future delivery of health care. Being a leader and helping to define this path is core to our mission. We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Helix to deploy this first-of-its-kind population genomic program for our patients. This collaboration will help drive preventive, precision health care for South Carolinians.”
The strategic relationship with Helix allows MUSC to leverage Helix’s unique Sequence Once, Query Often TM model and its end-to-end integration platform to enable immediate application and continual on-demand use of genetic insights throughout a patient’s life. By working with South Carolina’s only integrated academic health sciences center in the state, Helix gains access to thousands of providers and research staff dedicated to understanding how to deliver the highest quality patient care available to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond.
“Large-scale population genomics initiatives like this have the potential to significantly improve a health system’s ability to deliver population and precision health insights to patients,” said James Lu, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Helix. “In similar programs, as many as 1 in 75 participants have been found to be at risk for a serious health issue, of which 90 percent would not have been discovered through traditional practice. By expanding access and making genomic data actionable for health care providers, we will be able to work in tandem with MUSC, the no. 1 hospital in South Carolina, to identify risk earlier and prevent or mitigate serious diseases for its community and beyond.”
Enrollment in the program will initially be available to patients who sign up at select MUSC clinics and locations, later expanding to participants throughout the community and state in collaboration with MUSC’s clinical affiliates and partners. Additionally, participants who consent to securely contribute their genetic data will help MUSC develop one of the largest clinico-genomic datasets in the country. Analyses from this platform will be used to pioneer and further advance genomics research.
About the Medical University of South Carolina
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to 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 and safe patient care while training generations of compassionate, competent health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Close to 25,000 care team members provide care for patients at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and 5 additional hospital locations in development, more than 300 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in the Lowcountry, Midlands, Pee Dee and Upstate regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh 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 $4.4 billion. The more than 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.
Helix is the leading population genomics company operating at the intersection of clinical care, research, and genomics. Its end-to-end platform enables health systems, life sciences companies, and payers to advance genomic research and accelerate the integration of genomic data into clinical care. Powered by one of the world’s largest CLIA / CAP next-generation sequencing labs and the first and only FDA authorized whole exome sequencing platform, Helix supports all aspects of population genomics including recruitment and engagement, clinically actionable disease screening, return of results, and basic and translational research. In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Helix has launched a sensitive and scalable end-to-end COVID-19 test system to meet the needs of health systems, employees, governments, and other organizations across the country. Learn more at helix.com.
South Carolina and National executive address what's next for South Carolina as we battle COVID. see more
On September 9, 2021 SCBIO hosted a statewide webinar program entitled "COVID-19 and South Carolina: What's Next?". The program was attended by a large audience across South Carolina, including business leaders, healthcare executives, elected officials, and regional media.
BIO’s Phyllis Arthur, Nephron Pharmaceutical’s Lou Kennedy and VCOM’s Matt Cannon shared their views on what obstacles we have to overcome to get through this latest surge, using science as the foundation. This discussion also addressed the science, data and real life experiences confronting us all as we manage our response to the Delta Variant of COVID-19. It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss if you aren’t sure about vaccines, antibodies, masks and more.
Top executives opine on what's next for SC as Covid surges see more
After attending a Chamber of Commerce breakfast where a hospital CEO ticked off statistics about the number of unvaccinated patients suffering from Covid – many in their 20s and 30s – Nephron Pharmaceuticals CEO Lou Kennedy decided something had to be done.
So she mandated vaccination at her company and today, everyone at the West Columbia business, which manufactures generic respiratory products, has had the shot, she said. And she lost just 30 out of 2,000 employees over the decision.
“It was the right thing to do, and I encourage my fellow business leaders to follow suit,” Kennedy said. “Somebody had to be the first to do it, and why not make it us.”
In addition, Kennedy said, the company spent $2.5 million last year on people being out of work and overtime to cover them – money that could have been spent on innovation, such as the mask the company introduced for patients getting nebulizer treatments that protects the health care provider from respiratory droplets.
Kennedy spoke at an online event hosted by SC BIO, the Palmetto State’s life sciences group, to discuss what comes next in the pandemic.
South Carolina is still lagging in vaccinations, said SC BIO interim CEO Erin Ford, with Covid deaths on the rise.
By Sept. 7, just 49 percent of residents had been fully vaccinated, and 58 percent had had at least one shot, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Meanwhile, nearly 780,000 cases had been confirmed by that date and 11,050 South Carolinians had died, DHEC reports.
But the number of vaccinations is slowly rising, Ford said, offering some hope that things will turn around.
The full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine pushed some people to get vaccinated in recent weeks, said Phyllis Arthur, vice president of infectious diseases and diagnostic policy at BIO Global, the world’s largest advocacy association representing member companies, state biotechnology groups, academic and research institutions.
But many are rolling up their sleeves after seeing how the Delta variant left loved ones sick and dying, she said.
“Delta is nearly twice as contagious as the previous variants,” she said. “And … (it) moved so quickly and spread so fast we saw a giant spike in cases and deaths. When immunization numbers go up, we will see cases come down.”
The speakers agreed that the greatest obstacle to making progress in the fight against the virus is the politicization of the pandemic and misinformation.
“There’s no R or D in the word science. It has nothing to do with your favorite politician,” said Kennedy. “This is science.”
Arthur said people should beware of misinformation and trust the scientists who’ve done the work on the virus.
“One of the things I ask people to do is look at the source of what you’re reading and hearing,” she said. “Look at the data yourself. It’s all publicly available and it’s very transparent.
And Dr. Matthew Cannon, dean of the Carolinas Campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, agreed.
“(It’s) being politicized, in my opinion, and I just hope people would look at it objectively, not through partisanship,” he said. “This is a public health crisis.”
Cannon said that as of Sept. 7, one Upstate hospital had 278 Covid patients and all but 25 were unvaccinated. Another had 566 Covid patients and all but 41 were unvaccinated. The average age of the vaccinated patients was 75 to 78, he said, and they were immunocompromised. The average age of the unvaccinated patients was 50, he said.
Though breakthrough cases occasionally occur among the vaccinated, Arthur said they typically are milder and of shorter duration.
She said she expects FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children younger than 12 in the next month or so and the Moderna vaccine in the next few months.
Kennedy said her antibody level dropped from 6,900 to 3,800 in recent weeks and is watching to see when the booster is approved.
There are still two steps to go before a booster is approved for the general population, but that it could come in a matter of weeks, Arthur said.
And Cannon said the college is working on research to determine when boosters should be given, noting the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been around for years.
Arthur added that the mRNA technology will be able to be used for many vaccines and even disease treatments.
“You can speed the next product, and that can allow us to have many more innovations from the treatment perspective and the vaccine perspective,” she said. “It’s the same for monoclonal antibodies. And that will ripple through the industry for years to come.”
Cannon said he’s proud of the health care workers who are surrounded by contagious Covid patients putting them and their families at risk, but continue to step up every day for the greater good of the community.
Nonetheless, he said, he worries about the stress they endure, seeing so much loss and knowing it could be prevented.
Meanwhile, he said, although medical residents got the experience of learning how to work in the midst of a pandemic - something their predecessors never had - they are missing out on some hands-on training because hospitals are canceling elective procedures.
Kennedy said the employees who refused vaccination weren’t willing to listen to the science. And while she got lots of phone calls asking whether there were protests in the street about her mandate, it all went smoothly.
“There were a couple people grumbling in the plant,” she said, “but it amounted to much ado about nothing.”
All the speakers encouraged everyone to be vaccinated and wear masks.
“It will prevent you from giving the virus to someone else,” said Cannon, “or from them giving it to you.”
“We’re in this together,” said Arthur, “and we can get out of it together.”
University of South Carolina initiative saving lives see more
A gentle hum can be heard from a lab in the depths of the University of South Carolina's life sciences building. Take a peek inside, and you'll find something unusual.
Thousands of tubes of the spit belonging to the university's students, faculty, staff and Columbia residents.
Almost a year ago, the school's colon cancer lab changed course from its usual area of study and started analyzing how it could help as COVID-19 ravaged the world, killing hundreds of thousands across the country and shutting down campuses.
USC professors had a breakthrough when they started studying saliva there, said biomedical sciences professor Phillip Buckhaults.
They ended up creating what looks like a blue cocktail — and it exposes the COVID-19 genome in our saliva.
"We figured out a way to photocopy bits of the COVID genome," Buckhaults said. "It's like a liquid photocopier."
It's proven to be more efficient than nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing. There's no uncomfortable nasal swab involved. Materials for nasal-swab testing are often limited. And these saliva results come quicker. Those who get tested on USC's campus typically receive results within 24 hours.
When the saliva testing first began on campus, scientists were pipetting saliva samples with the "photocopier" liquid to see the COVID-19 genome appeared in the DNA when the saliva was "photocopied" several times.
Because it was done solely by hand, they were able to test only several dozen samples a day.
"The demand was more than we could keep up with," Buckhaults said.
So he sent an email pleading with USC president Harris Pastides for a liquid-handling robot that's able to do the pipetting automatically, saving a lot of time.
Pastides then got South Carolina-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals owner Lou Kennedy to write Buckhault a $14,000 check to buy one of the robots.
"Within two weeks, we went from a junkie, underutilized, decrepit lab space to really state-of-the-art," said laboratory director and professor Carolyn Banister.
Buckhaults also credited former USC president Bob Caslen for removing roadblocks to get more machines and a bigger lab — speeding up the process to speed up the process, so to speak.
Caslen worked with the state government and university officials to get thousands of dollars for lab equipment and borrowed testing machines from nearby labs, Buckhaults said.
"He saved a lot of lives in the Midlands by pouring resources into (Banister) and that lab and getting this test running," Buckhaults said.
Now, the lab is testing about 2,000 samples a day and returning samples within 24 hours, and its reach is beyond the Midlands. Quick-turnaround testing allows people to identify themselves as COVID-19-positive earlier and isolate themselves, reducing the spread of the virus and saving lives.
The testing technology has expanded across the state. USC satellite campuses, including Upstate and Union, as well as Clemson, Winthrop, the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College are able to use the saliva tests created at the USC lab.
The testing is able to recognize different variants of COVID-19 as well.
Another hospital system mandates vaccines for workers see more
Another hospital system in the Lowcountry will soon mandate that workers get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
Roper St. Francis alerted its approximately 6,000 employees of the impending requirement on Aug. 24. The announcement comes a day after the federal Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older and comes amid a new surge of COVID patients flooding hospitals and intensive care units across South Carolina.
“We are proceeding with this requirement because we care about you and our patients,” Roper St. Francis wrote in an email to employees. “This mandate is unanimously supported by the RSFH Board of Directors, senior leadership and our medical staff.”
Roper St. Francis staff who are not fully vaccinated must get their first dose by Oct. 1 and their second dose by Nov. 1. Employees who intend to file medical or religious exemptions to the mandate must do so by Sept. 17. Roper St. Francis spokesman Andy Lyons said the details of those exemption forms are still being finalized and he did not yet know if employees who developed natural immunity through a previous COVID-19 infection would qualify for a medical exemption.
Lyons said approximately 1,500 of the system’s 6,000 employees have not been vaccinated yet.
The Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston already require employees to be vaccinated. In July, MUSC fired five employees who declined to be vaccinated. Vaccines for Trident Health employees remain optional, but encouraged.
In the letter to employees, Roper St. Francis leaders said more than 3,600 health care workers across the country died during the first year of the pandemic and explained that unvaccinated hospital and health care employees create more risks for patients.
According to the latest hospital census, across all four Roper St. Francis hospitals, all but 14 of the 107 COVID-19 inpatients are unvaccinated. None of the vaccinated patients who are hospitalized are on ventilators.
Op-Ed: As a doctor in a COVID unit, I’m running out of compassion for the unvaccinated. Get the shotInfectious disease physician calls for vaccinations see more
My patient sat at the edge of his bed gasping for air while he tried to tell me his story, pausing to catch his breath after each word. The plastic tubes delivering oxygen through his nose hardly seemed adequate to stop his chest from heaving. He looked exhausted.
He had tested positive for the coronavirus 10 days ago. He was under 50, mildly hypertensive but otherwise in good health. Eight days earlier he started coughing and having severe fatigue. His doctor started him on antibiotics. It did not work.
Fearing his symptoms were worsening, he started taking some hydroxychloroquine he had found on the internet. It did not work.
He was now experiencing shortness of breath while doing routine daily activities such as walking from his bedroom to the bathroom or putting on his shoes. He was a shell of his former self. He eventually made his way to a facility where he could receive monoclonal antibodies, a lab-produced transfusion that substitutes for the body’s own antibodies. It did not work.
He finally ended up in the ER with dangerously low oxygen levels, exceedingly high inflammatory markers and patchy areas of infection all over his lungs. Nothing had helped. He was getting worse. He could not breathe. His wife and two young children were at home, all infected with the virus. He and his wife had decided not to get vaccinated.
Last year, a case like this would have flattened me. I would have wrestled with the sadness and how unfair life was. Battled with the angst of how unlucky he was. This year, I struggled to find sympathy. It was August 2021, not 2020. The vaccine had been widely available for months in the U.S., free to anyone who wanted it, even offered in drugstores and supermarkets. Cutting-edge, revolutionary, mind-blowing, lifesaving vaccines were available where people shopped for groceries, and they still didn’t want them.
Outside his hospital door, I took a deep breath — battening down my anger and frustration — and went in. I had been working the COVID-19 units for 17 months straight, all day, every day. I had cared for hundreds of COVID patients. We all had, without being able to take breaks long enough to help us recover from this unending ordeal. Compassion fatigue was setting in. For those of us who hadn’t left after the hardest year of our professional lives, even hope was now in short supply.
Shouting through my N95 mask and the noise of the HEPA filter, I introduced myself. I calmly asked him why he decided not to get vaccinated.
“Well, I’m not an anti-vaxxer or anything. I was just waiting for the FDA to approve the vaccine first. I didn’t want to take anything experimental. I didn’t want to be the government’s guinea pig, and I don’t trust that it’s safe,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “I can pretty much guarantee we would have never met had you gotten vaccinated, because you would have never been hospitalized. All of our COVID units are full and every single patient in them is unvaccinated. Numbers don’t lie. The vaccines work.”
This was a common excuse people gave for not getting vaccinated, fearing the vaccine because the Food and Drug Administration had granted it only emergency use authorization so far, not permanent approval. Yet the treatments he had turned to — antibiotics, monoclonal antibodies and hydroxychloroquine — were considered experimental, with mixed evidence to support their use.
The only proven lifesaver we’ve had in this pandemic is a vaccine that many people don’t want. A vaccine we give away to other countries because supply overwhelms demand in the U.S. A vaccine people in other countries stand in line for hours to receive, if they can get it at all.
“Well,” I said, “I am going to treat you with remdesivir, which only recently received FDA approval.” I explained that it had been under an EUA for most of last year and had not been studied or administered as widely as COVID-19 vaccines. That more than 353 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the U.S. along with more than 4.7 billion doses worldwide without any overwhelming, catastrophic side effects. “Not nearly as many doses of remdesivir have been given or studied in people and its long-term side effects are still unknown,” I said. “Do you still want me to give it to you?”
“Yes” he responded, “Whatever it takes to save my life.”
It did not work.
My patient died nine days later of a stroke. We, the care team, reconciled this loss by telling ourselves: He made a personal choice not to get vaccinated, not to protect himself or his family. We did everything we could with what we had to save him. This year, this tragedy, this unnecessary, entirely preventable loss, was on him.
The burden of this pandemic now rests on the shoulders of the unvaccinated. On those who are eligible to get vaccinated but choose not to, a decision they defend by declaring, “Vaccination is a deeply personal choice.” But perhaps never in history has anyone’s personal choice affected the world as a whole as it does right now. When hundreds and thousands of people continue to die — when the most vulnerable members of society, our children, cannot be vaccinated — the luxury of choice ceases to exist.
If you believe the pandemic is almost over and I can ride it out, without getting vaccinated, you could not be more wrong. This virus will find you.
If you believe I’ll just wait until the FDA approves the vaccine first, you may not live to see the day.
If you believe if I get infected I’ll just go to the hospital and get treated, there is no guarantee we can save your life, nor even a promise we’ll have a bed for you.
If you believe I’m pregnant and I don’t want the vaccine to affect me, my baby or my future fertility, it matters little if you’re not alive to see your newborn.
If you believe I won’t get my children vaccinated because I don’t know what the long-term effects will be, it matters little if they don’t live long enough for you to find out.
If you believe I’ll just let everyone else get vaccinated around me so I don’t have to, there are 93 million eligible, unvaccinated people in the “herd” who think the same way you do and are getting in the way of ending this pandemic.
If you believe vaccinated people are getting infected anyway, so what’s the point?, the vaccine was built to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from severe illness. Instead of fatal pneumonia, those with breakthrough infections have a short, bad cold, so the vaccine has already proved itself. The vaccinated are not dying of COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has mutated countless times during this pandemic, adapting to survive. Stacked up against a human race that has resisted change every step of the way — including wearing masks, social distancing, quarantining and now refusing lifesaving vaccines — it is easy to see who will win this war if human behavior fails to change quickly.
The most effective thing you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones and the world is to GET VACCINATED.
And it will work.
Anita Sircar is an infectious-disease physician and clinical instructor of health sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine.
Rhythmlink International honored as a Best Places to Work in South Carolina for tenth consecutive yearTen years in a row for life sciences firm Rhythmlink see more
For the tenth consecutive year Rhythmlink has been awarded a spot on the “Best Places to Work in South Carolina” list in the Small Employer category, honored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. This year Rhythmlink placed 13 out 20 total companies in this category, earning a spot on a final list of the 81 most innovative and top-notch employers across the state.
“Rhythmlink takes pride in achieving this honor for the tenth consecutive year,” said Shawn Regan, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer for Rhythmlink International, LLC. “We could not achieve our mission of improving patient care or uphold our values and culture without the significant contribution of our employees, and this honor helps us know we remain on the right track for making that possible,” said Regan.
Companies from across the state entered the two-part survey process to determine the Best Places to Work in South Carolina. The first part consisted of evaluating each company’s workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking. Several questions on the survey dealt with how Rhythmlink has responded to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it has affected the workplace.
Joe Straczek, Chief Financial Officer for Rhythmlink, believes that despite the challenges, Rhythmlink employees remained focused and dedicated to their work. “As a health care company, our employees know the value of their work in our industry, and believe they have an opportunity to make a difference,” said Straczek. “One of the things that makes our culture special is a willingness and ability to adapt to changes and struggles, while always keeping the customer top of mind.”
Ranked companies were recognized at an annual reception and awards dinner at the Columbia Convention Center on August 4, 2021.
Rhythmlink International is a medical device manufacturer specializing in devices that help connect patients to machines to record or elicit physiologic information. Rhythmlink designs, manufactures, and distributes a variety of medical devices for intraoperative neuromonitoring, electroencephalography, evoked potentials, polysomnography, long-term epilepsy monitoring and critical care units. Founded by neurodiagnostic technologists and engineers in 2002, Rhythmlink enhances patient care worldwide by transforming medical device technology that links patients to equipment. Rhythmlink also offers custom packaging, custom products, private labeling, and contract manufacturing services.
Once again, Lou Kennedy and Nephron step up for South Carolina see more
A South Carolina-based pharmaceutical manufacturer that has offered coronavirus vaccines to the public and run thousands of COVID-19 tests throughout the pandemic will now require all of its employees to get inoculated.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is mandating that all of the company’s nearly 2,000 workers be fully vaccinated or have started a two-dose vaccine series by Aug. 27, unless the employee has “an exemption or reasonable accommodation,” according to CEO Lou Kennedy.
The company is one of the first major businesses in South Carolina, other than hospitals, to publicly declare such a directive. Details of the requirement were shared with The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Monday.
“As COVID-19 cases, driven by the deadly serious Delta variant, continue to impact communities and businesses alike, we can be one of the first businesses of our size to have a fully-vaccinated workforce,” Kennedy wrote in a company-wide letter.
Kennedy told reporters that employees who are not vaccinated by the deadline and can’t provide a medical or religious exemption will be fired, and she isn’t worried about lawsuits.
“I’ll be very sad if we lose even the first person,” Kennedy said. “I hate that, but we’ve got to do what is right, to keep us healthy so we can keep others healthy.”
Nephron, which makes a number of drugs used to treat COVID-19 patients, is also mandating all visitors, vendors and guests be fully vaccinated. Those who need the shots can get them from Nephron itself, which has run a vaccine site in West Columbia since February.
The company is still compiling data on how many of its workers are vaccinated.
A growing number of hospitals around the state, including the Medical University of South Carolina and Tidelands, have made vaccination a requirement for health care employees. Prisma Health, South Carolina’s largest hospital system, has offered incentives to staffers instead, news outlets have reported.
The Nephron announcement comes as vaccine rates continue to lag. Less than half of eligible South Carolinians were fully vaccinated as of last week, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Although most businesses in the state have yet to implement such requirements, the resurgence of the virus with the highly contagious delta variant has prompted many to consider a mandate, S.C. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan told The Associated Press on Monday.
More and more businesses will likely require employees to be vaccinated, following Nephron’s lead and the expected full approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration later this fall, Morgan said: “Momentum is growing.”
Lawmakers in the South Carolina Senate did approve a proposal that would prevent employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for workers earlier this year. That measure still awaits House action.
Lou Kennedy authors a perspective every South Carolina resident should read see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. manufactures lifesaving medications that help people breathe. In the midst of a pandemic, it is more critical than ever that our team stays healthy, so we can keep patients healthy.
This was one reason we stayed motivated over the past year to step up for our community, state and nation to aid the response to COVID-19. When the opportunity arose for Nephron to partner with Dominion Energy South Carolina and launch a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru, we embraced it — just as many of our employees, myself included, jumped at the chance to be vaccinated.
It was the least we could do to help keep South Carolina’s recovery on track. After all, we have been proud of the way our state, guided by Gov. Henry McMaster, has led. We struck the right balance between public health and economic prosperity. We never closed down, and we avoided many of the problems neighboring states have battled.
However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lag our state — and, frankly, our company — has seen in citizens being vaccinated. The initial enthusiasm for getting vaccinated has given way to hesitancy. I want to change that. I hope my colleagues around the business community will join me in the effort.
Why is it important to me for the people of South Carolina, the employees of our company and workers everywhere to get vaccinated?
After a year of masks and mandates, viruses and virtual meetings, I am tired of having the economy impacted, and recreation curtailed, by concerns that interacting with people could lead to long-term health challenges, such as those associated with COVID-19. I agree with our governor: We do not need new restrictions in South Carolina. It is time to return to normal — for good.
I also believe in science. As the CEO of one of the fastest-growing pharmaceuticals manufacturers in the country, I work with dozens of brilliant scientists. We know there are real concerns about contracting COVID-19 and the new, dangerous strains of the virus cropping up around the world.
If we truly want to return to normal, and do so in a permanent way, then there is no alternative to getting vaccinated. Luckily, in South Carolina, there are countless places where vaccines are available. Come to the Nephron drive-thru vaccination location (in West Columbia) and get your shot. There is no charge. Or contact the state Department of Health and Environmental Control about where to get vaccinated. Again, there is no charge.
Do you own a business? Give your employees incentives to get the shot. We did. Employees who received the vaccine by a certain date at Nephron were entered into a drawing to receive free paid time off. This was a win-win — for workers, it was a chance to earn a meaningful prize, and for the company, it meant a safer and healthier work environment.
Nephron employees who still have not been vaccinated are required to wear masks. Like other critical health care and manufacturing facilities, Nephron is a place too many people depend on for us to risk a widespread outbreak of any virus. What we hope is that we can encourage enough of our employees to get vaccinated that we do not have to consider additional mandates or more serious measures in response to unvaccinated employees.
Vaccinations remain one of the surest ways each of us can do the right thing — by our friends, families, state and nation — during these unprecedented days. If you have not been vaccinated, I hope you will join me and get the shot. Each of us can contribute to the health and safety of our companies and our country. Doing so may mean the difference between keeping the place where you work open and seeing it closed — not to mention the difference between life and death.
Lou Kennedy is CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation and a Lexington resident.
USC earns award of excellence see more
In recognition of their dedication and innovations in overcoming the challenges of delivering the experiential curriculum during the past year, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Experiential Education Section has bestowed the Award for Excellence in Experiential Education upon the faculty and staff of experiential offices at the colleges and schools of pharmacy, including the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy.
The Experiential Education team of Jennifer Baker, director of experiential programs; Whitney Maxwell, associate director of experiential programs; Kathryn Kenard, student service program coordinator; and Nancy Blaisdell, administrative assistant, received certificates of recognition from the AACP during a presentation by Julie Sease, interim dean of the College of Pharmacy.
The AACP Experiential Education Section Award of Excellence in Experiential Education is normally presented each year to an individual, but this year, the organization chose to recognize programs across the country.
When the University closed in March 2020, the Office of Experiential Education for the College of Pharmacy mobilized to a virtual unit overnight as there could be no pause in operations to keep students progressing through the Pharm.D. curriculum. With the status of hundreds of rotations changing on what seemed like an hourly basis during the spring and summer of 2020, Baker and Maxwell navigated rotation rescheduling while Kenard and Blaisdell tirelessly worked through site onboarding requirements to efficiently move students on and off rotation without missing a beat.
“Through the hard work and commitment of our preceptors and practice sites, we were able to successfully graduate the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on time,” says Baker. “Our team was dedicated to our students even while serving on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. While our experiences were not unique, as everyone’s worlds were turned upside down during the pandemic, I can confidently say that our students and College are blessed with the best preceptors and faculty.
“We are so grateful for the unwavering support from College administration and for this recognition by the AACP Experiential Education Section. It was incredible to see the collaboration that occurred within our profession at the local, state and national level to support all pharmacy students.”
Life sciences booming in Spartanburg, Upstate see more
Spartanburg County – and the entire Upstate – are welcoming a growing interest and investments from life sciences companies. The Upstate has a long-established history and infrastructure that have supported life sciences companies with raw materials, production and packaging operations, and distribution.
Now, new research and innovation businesses are further supporting industry growth and fueling an ecosystem ripe for start-ups.
More than 670 life sciences firms of all sizes call the Upstate home, with 13 companies announcing new locations in the area in the last few years.
The newest of those companies in Spartanburg is Epica International, the leader in advanced, ultra-high-resolution mobile medical imaging and robotic applications for human and animal health, and industrial enterprises.
The company announced its headquarters and operations in Spartanburg, covering its subsidiary companies Epica Human Health, Epica Animal Health and Roboticom. Epica established corporate, imaging and robotic system demos at its facility, currently located inside the Spark Center SC on the Tyger River Campus of Spartanburg Community College.
“Epica’s investment in Spartanburg goes hand-in-hand with a diversified economic development strategy we’ve put in place countywide, targeting specifically investments from bioscience and life sciences industries,” said OneSpartanburg, Inc. Chief Economic Development Officer Katherine O’Neill. “These types of advanced, heavy-technology industries coming to our county gives us a considerable strategic advantage for future development and job growth.”
Another life sciences company – Pall Corporation – announced its intent to invest in Spartanburg County earlier in 2021. Pall announced its Spartanburg County operations would create 425 new jobs and $30.2 million in investment.
Pall serves the needs of customers across the broad spectrum of life sciences and industry and works with clients around the world to advance health, safety and environmentally responsible technologies. The company’s Spartanburg facility supports the rapid development of vaccines and therapeutics, including COVID-19 vaccines.
"Spartanburg County provides Pall with the diverse workforce we need to manufacture life-saving therapeutics and vaccines. We look forward to building our presence in this county,” said Pall Life Sciences President Joseph Repp at the time of the company’s announcement.
Statewide, South Carolina has a significant presence in the medical device sector. And the manufacturing supply chain is robust when it comes to life sciences, mirroring the strength of the area’s overall manufacturing prowess.
From 2015-2019, medical devices and equipment companies added 35% more jobs and accounted for 11.5% of the new companies coming to the Upstate. And on top of that, more than 700 clinical trials are being undertaken across the Upstate at any given time in the fields of oncology, companion diagnostics, genetics and more.
The Upstate in particular has a network of acclaimed hospitals, technical training schools and more than 26 colleges and universities actively working with industry leaders and educators on all levels to ensure access a highly-skilled workforce for decades to come.
“Spartanburg’s historic advantages when it comes to infrastructure, distribution capabilities and even the county’s location, make it a favorable home for continued investments from biosciences and life science industries,” said O’Neill. “That positions us well for the future as these industries continue to bring higher-wage, knowledge-based jobs to Spartanburg.”