SCBIO, United Community Bank to sponsor development program see more
Furman University’s Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) will be presented virtually this year with two statewide community partners supporting the effort. United Community Bank will be the program’s presenting sponsor and SCBIO has signed on to be a presenting partner.
The WLI is a seven-week leadership development program open to emerging and established women leaders in South Carolina, with past participants from every corner and many industries of the Palmetto State. It is led by distinguished Furman faculty and expert facilitators from civic and corporate organizations who cover core competencies from team leadership and design thinking to negotiating and developing networks.
The program this year will comprise live, virtual sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST, beginning April 15 and ending June 1. The cost is $1,499 and registration is open now. For more information, or to nominate someone for participation, visit the WLI website.
“The Women’s Leadership Institute at Furman is a wonderful opportunity to network with other female leaders in the community, learn more about my own natural strengths and abilities, and discover how I can use my voice to be an advocate for change in our local community,” says Jessica McCoy, a 2020 WLI graduate.
“I would recommend this program to anyone who is actively seeking to make a difference in every area of their life. I promise you won’t regret a single second of it,” said McCoy, the business development manager for Brasfield and Gorrie, one of the country’s largest privately held construction companies.
“The Women’s Leadership Institute has a long history of helping women succeed in their chosen careers and in life,” said Elizabeth Davis, Furman University president. “We are excited to have two cornerstone organizations join us this year to help extend our leadership training and advance equality, equity and diversity in the workplace.”
Furman’s WLI began in 1998, and has helped more than 600 women from diverse sectors develop their leadership skills that are essential to advancing within their organizations.
“Having United Community Bank and SCBIO join as presenting sponsor and presenting partner, respectively, increases the breadth and depth of the program into South Carolina’s business community,” says Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“United Community Bank is committed to making a difference in our community and we believe that is achieved through sponsoring programs that support the development of those who serve others,” said Moryah Jackson, vice president of community development and engagement for United Community Bank. “We are excited to be this year’s presenting sponsor and provide women with a professional development opportunity that will help them go out and make the world a better place.”
“Furman’s Women’s Leadership Institute is among the premier programs in the Southeast devoted to promoting talent development, fostering invaluable connections and expanding new opportunities for current and emerging women leaders across the business ecosystem,” said Erin Ford, executive vice president and chief operating officer for SCBIO. “We are honored and enthusiastic supporters of the WLI program and mission, and look forward to being actively involved in this fantastic program.”
Ford and Sam Konduros, chief executive officer and president of SCBIO, will present during one session, and a panel from United Community Bank will close the program on June 1.
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."
Greenwood Genetic Center project receives grant to expand access for genetics services see more
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), through the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation, has been awarded a grant of $899,000 from The Duke Endowment for 'Genetics Access for All,' a project to expand access to genetics services for patients and providers.
"In this current era of genomic medicine, there is an increasing demand for clinical genetics services, but our workforce is insufficient to meet this demand, and our current work flows are inefficient," said Mike Lyons, MD, Director of Clinical Services at GGC and lead on the funded project. "This leads to families facing long waits to be evaluated and tested, and subsequent delays in managing and treating their child's condition."
GGC has provided clinical genetics services since 1974; however, with the increase in demand for services, and inability of genetics training programs to keep up with the ensuing workforce demand, patients often wait for six months or longer to be seen.
"This is not just a GGC issue. Genetics clinics around the country are facing wait times that are as long or longer than ours," said Steve Skinner, MD, GGC Director. "And we have found that as genomic technology has been evolving at such a rapid pace, many non-genetics providers do not feel comfortable ordering and interpreting genetic tests on their own."
'Genetics Access for All' proposes a new standard of genetics care by optimizing access for patients and employing a new system of communication to transform how non-genetics providers engage with genetics providers in order to better manage their patients.
In 2019, GGC and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) signed an affiliation agreement with the goal of improving access to genetic services for patients across SC.
One initiative that has grown out of this affiliation is a pilot project with the MUSC Center for Telehealth to develop an electronic consult (e-consult) system for genetics referrals. The project initially offered the option only to a limited number of referring providers in the MUSC system. Funding from The Duke Endowment will allow that project to expand on a much larger scale.
During the first year of the funded project, GGC will implement e-consults through an online platform to allow non-genetics providers to upload patient information, and receive clinical impressions and testing recommendations within two business days. E-consults will help avoid unnecessary referrals, improve communication with non-genetic providers, and enhance efficiency by decreasing the amount of time needed for in-person and telemedicine visits.
In year two, GGC plans to expand the concept to provide electronic patient visits (e-visits) allowing patients to upload their information electronically and quickly receive clinical feedback and recommendations. The goal of e-visits is not to replace in-person or telegenetics visits, but to provide another care option that improves communication with and access for patients.
Lyons says that the ultimate goal of this project is to change the model of genetics care from a long diagnostic odyssey to a more efficient system that decreases unnecessary referrals, expedites diagnoses, and decreases wait times for appointments.
"Through e-consults, we'll be able to more quickly identify patients who need genetic testing and facilitate the appropriate testing," he said. "A rapid diagnosis will allow for more timely and precise management and treatment for all patients impacted by a genetic disorder."
GGC expects to see significant improvements in patient care as the project expands. "Our goals are to complete 50 outpatient and 25 inpatient e-consults and 25 e-visits per month by the end of the grant cycle," said Lyons. "We anticipate this project to dramatically improve wait times for all types of visits, and hope that our success can be translated into a new model for genetics care in clinics nationwide."
About Greenwood Genetic Center
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), founded in 1974, is a nonprofit organization advancing the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects. At its home campus in Greenwood, South Carolina, a talented team of physicians and scientists provides clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and resources, and research in the field of medical genetics. GGC’s faculty and staff are committed to the goal of developing preventive and curative therapies for the individuals and families they serve. GGC extends its reach as a resource to all residents of South Carolina with satellite offices in Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville. For more information about GGC please visit www.ggc.org.
About The Duke Endowment
Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $4 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.
Pensievision earns a rare perfect score from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on its grant applicationNIH recognizes outstanding performance bySouth Carolina organization see more
Pensievision, the Charleston based company that develops AI-based, 3D medical imaging technologies, earned a rare perfect score from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on its grant application for developing a low-cost, handheld, 3D imaging system for improved screening of cervical neoplasia, to help prevent cervical cancer. The grant funds awarded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will be used for a clinical study, in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
The proposal submission, led by Pensievision’s CTO, Dr. Joe Carson, who is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at College of Charleston, received a perfect score of 10, ranking in the top one percentile of all grants submitted to the NIH.
The NIH review board indicated that “the proposal was perceived as exciting, highly innovative, extremely significant, with an exceptional investigative team, and outstanding environment”.
“We knew that we wrote a strong grant proposal, but we were still surprised by the rare perfect score” says Tal Almog, Pensievision’s Co-founder and President. “We are honored and very excited with the opportunity to enhance screening and diagnostic technologies that could save lives”
Earlier this year, Pensievision completed development of CervImage™, the world’s first portable colposcope capable of producing high-resolution 3D images to assist in early-stage detection and analysis of pre-cancer cervical lesions. The team decided to focus on cervical cancer (the third most common cancer worldwide and the leading cause of cancer death in women in developing economies) where screening efforts in low resource communities have only achieved limited success due to lack of laboratory infrastructure, shortage of trained personnel, and high costs, leading to high mortality rates. CervImage™ could improve existing screening methods by offering a point of care screening & diagnostics solution to enable single-visit screen-and–treat without the need for return visits or lab results.
Experienced Team and Advisory Board
Pensievision was founded by a unique team of four interdisciplinary professionals: Dr. Joe Carson, a professor of Astrophysics, Dr. YT Liu, a medical doctor, Tal Almog, a technology entrepreneur/executive, and Ben Carson, a business attorney. They are assisted by a seasoned advisory board, including Dr. Dennis Carson, a renowned cancer researcher and the former Director of the UCSD Moores Cancer Center, and Raymond McDaniel, CEO and President of Moody’s Corporation, a $50B financial services company.
Novel Imaging Technology
The company develops medical-grade 3D imaging technologies using Dr. Carson’s untraditional approach of borrowing imaging techniques used in astronomy, such as for NASA’s space telescopes. He used his own experience in extraterrestrial imaging, including his direct-imaging discovery of a ‘super-Jupiter’, and his discovery of the coldest imaged companion of a sun-like star (which was recognized as ‘TIME magazine top 10 science discoveries of 2009’).
Pensievision is working to miniaturize its devices and is developing a fiber-optic based endoscope to achieve precise 3D imaging of pre-cancerous lesions inside the body, including within the cervical canal, the ovaries, and the esophagus.
Pensievision’s 3D imaging software could further be adapted to applications in consumer electronics, smartphones, and digital health. The company is currently working with market-leading strategic partners to license its technology.
South Carolina life sciences company adding 148 new jobs to booming industry see more
Vikor Scientific, LLC, a molecular diagnostics company, today announced plans to expand operations in Charleston County. The $1 million investment will create 148 new jobs.
Founded in 2018, Vikor Scientific, LLC specializes in antibiotic stewardship and tangible solutions for the practice of value-based medicine in the treatment of infectious disease. The company provides clinicians with advanced molecular methodology for pathogen detection, quantification and resistance gene identification.
Located at 22 Westedge Street in Charleston, Vikor Scientific, LLC's expansion will increase the company's capacity to assemble and distribute both COVID-19 and full molecular panel testing kits across the country.
The expansion is expected to be completed by January 2021. Individuals interested in joining the Vikor Scientific, LLC team should visit the company's careers webpage.
"The prior backorder of testing supplies was crippling for the U.S. during the beginning of the pandemic, and no one wants to experience that again. This expansion will help us to continue to stay ahead and increase the production of our testing kits for both COVID and our other infectious disease molecular panels by the hundreds of thousands, which is vital as we enter the sick season." -Vikor Scientific Co-Founder Shea Harrelson
"Vikor Scientific, LLC's expansion and the 148 new jobs it will create will have a huge impact in Charleston County and across the state. We couldn't be more excited to continue this partnership and watch them succeed here for years to come." -Gov. Henry McMaster
"Team South Carolina works hard to offer businesses a strong foundation to foster growth and be successful. Vikor Scientific, LLC's decision to expand in Charleston County is an indication that we are doing it right, and we look forward to supporting this great company every step of the way." -Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt
"Charleston County offers an environment supportive of innovation, which is a catalyst for our growth in the life sciences industry. We welcome Vikor Scientific's expansion, as it will have a positive impact on our economy with the creation of 148 new jobs." -Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey
"As we continue to respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the remarkable work of companies like Vikor Scientific has proven critical to keeping our citizens healthy and safe. Not only will this expansion create 148 new jobs in Charleston, but it will increase our ability to provide COVID-19 tests to those who need them throughout the state and across the country. On behalf of the citizens of Charleston, I'd like to thank Vikor Scientific for the lifesaving work they do in our community and wish them Godspeed as they continue to expand operations." -Charleston Mayor John J. Tecklenburg
"Vikor Scientific is a young company making a monumental impact within the life sciences industry, and we are grateful this important work is happening in our backyard. Congratulations to Vikor Scientific on this significant expansion and we look forward to our continued partnership." -Charleston County Economic Development Executive Director Steve Dykes
FIVE FAST FACTS
- Vikor Scientific, LLC is expanding operations in Charleston County.
- The $1 million investment will create 148 new jobs.
- Vikor Scientific, LLC is a molecular diagnostics company.
- Located at 22 Westedge Street in Charleston, S.C.
- Individuals interested in joining the Vikor Scientific, LLC team should visit the company's careers webpage.
Nephron expanding again in Columbia, SC see more
With promising news about a COVID-19 vaccine making headlines, Lou Kennedy had reason for optimism during a beam-raising ceremony marking a milestone for a $215.8 million expansion at Nephron Pharmaceutical Corp.’s Saxe-Gotha Industrial Park campus.
Part of the expansion is a 110,000-square-foot vaccine production, chemotherapy and antibiotic wing that Kennedy, Nephron owner and CEO, expects to be operational around March 2021. She said Nephron is actively looking for a vaccine production partner to provide the ammunition for the pre-filled sterile syringes that make up the booming 503B Outsourcing Facility arm of the company.
“It’s a Chamber of Commerce day,” Kennedy said after signing the final beam of the 240,000-square-foot Kennedy Innovation Center’s steel skeleton on Tuesday morning. “This marks a milestone in 2020. This is good news. This is giving us the space to continue to grow.”
Newly elected President's plans have major bearing on the medtech industry see more
While former Vice President Joe Biden and the team he builds won't take office for another two months, the campaign’s plans for COVID-19, healthcare and other policy areas offer clues to how changing tides in Washington may impact the medtech industry.
In approaching the top task at hand — getting the pandemic under control — the Democrat's plan includes proposals with implications for the industry, from how diagnostic testing is covered to access to telemedicine services.
In some ways, the act of swapping out administrations, regardless of who's in power, means device makers can anticipate shifts at key government agencies like the FDA.
Southeast Life Sciences Launches SE Color, initiate action to encourage minorities to participate in Clinical TrialsSE Color initiates “We Are In” Campaign to encourage minority participation in Clinical Trials see more
On September 9, Southeast Life Sciences announced the formation of SE Color, an organization dedicated to support minority life science entrepreneurship, increase investment in minority-owned life science businesses, and improve minority access to information and clinical opportunities.
The founding advisory board members are Jayne Morgan MD, Clinical Director, Covid Task Force at Piedmont Healthcare, Kornelius Bankston, Managing Partner with techPLUG, and John Newby, Chief Executive Officer for Virginia BIO. As executive director of Southeast Life Sciences, Jason Rupp will staff the organization.
SE Color’s initial effort will focus on increasing the number of minorities in clinical trials. In an article published in Healthcare Tech Outlook, Dr. Morgan notes that, “African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the US population, yet only 5 – 7 percent of clinical trial participants nationally.”
Dr. Morgan further states, “Nearly every advance in medicine today was first evaluated in a clinical trial. Clinical trials offer our best and most forward thinking and can be the gateway to provide earlier access to life saving medicines and therapies years ahead of FDA approval. Equitable participation in clinical trials is therefore a critical call to action in ensuring that medicines, devices, and vaccines that are developed are relevant to all populations.”
Although there are many aspects to facilitate minority recruitment in clinical trials, SE Color will initially focus on education through the “We Are In” campaign. The initial priority will be to share information on clinical trials available throughout the southeast. SE Color will partner with state associations in the region to ensure we have updated information and extend the network.
Southeast Life Sciences recognizes the great need for effort in these areas and though we will only be one part of the solution, we will be part of it. In closing, Bankston adds “I believe the greatest social injustice in modern history is health inequalities which disproportionately impact people of color. We can create more effective therapeutics, applications and medicines for all populations- by addressing the systemic issues in clinical research.”
VentureSouth Named Top Ten see more
Compliments of MidlandsBiz
VentureSouth announced that it has been recognized as one of the top 10 angel investment groups in North America for the 3rd time.
The ranking comes from the Angel Capital Association, which released its 2020 Angel Funders Report this week. VentureSouth was recognized in the study as a top 10 angel group based on both total investments (30) and capital deployed ($12.7M) in 2019. VentureSouth was also recognized as a top 10 group by the ACA in 2018 and by CB Insights in 2014.
The Angel Capital Association is the largest association of angel groups in the world, with more than 250 angel groups and other early stage investors with over 14,000 members. Its members include many of the leading angel groups in the world.
VentureSouth was listed in this year’s top 10 alongside some of the largest and most well-respected angel groups in the US and Canada, including Tech Coast Angels in California and New York Angels and Golden Seeds in New York.
VentureSouth Managing Director Paul Clark commented: “We are honored to be recognized again as a top 10 angel group by the ACA and are proud that the repeat award recognizes our continued growth and the consistency of our approach to early-stage investing. We appreciate our highly engaged investors who are helping us accelerate investments in promising ventures across the Southeast.”
To learn more about VentureSouth, visit https://venturesouth.vc.
Zverse steps up for South Carolina see more
John Carrington remembers the chaos from the spreading coronavirus reaching his small Columbia, S.C., company about Saturday, March 14, three days after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic.
It started with a phone call from a hospital executive that Saturday saying the hospital was running critically short of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilator parts, and ventilators altogether. “What can you do?,” the hospital executive asked.
The Zverse CEO recalled that the executive “was pretty urgent,” and the gist of the message was open-ended: “We need a lot of problems solved and fast, and how can you help?”
How indeed? Carrington couldn’t offer the hospital a catalog of PPE, or a catalog of anything.
His workers were specialists in being manufacturing enablers, providing software and a cadre of experts who linked customers with ideas with manufacturing partners to convert those ideas into objects as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Within days, the company would shift into designing its own face shields for use in hospitals, later designing other models for schools or other crowded spaces.
Zverse would go from being able to make 1,000 face shields a day using 3-D printers to making the heavy investments to build molds for injection molding that allowed its production rate to climb to 120,000 units per day within about a month. That process would typically take about two or three months.
In March, Zverse had 20 employees. By September, it had 80. It expects to end the year with 100 to 120 employees — more designers, product managers, account managers, customer service and support, shipping and logistics specialists.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Carrington said.
Zverse is just one of hundreds of South Carolina businesses that were called to action by the pandemic and responded with innovations to help their customers and communities in a time of need. Several of those companies in the biotech field were highlighted in an Aug. 25 webinar by SCBIO, a not-for-profit industry association promoting the life sciences in South Carolina.
The others were:
VitaLink Research, a clinical research site network based in Greenville. VitaLink was commissioned by Moderna to conduct its Covid-19 vaccine study in South Carolina.
Vikor Scientific LLC, a Charleston testing laboratory founded in May 2018 by physician and entrepreneur Shea Harrelson and medical entrepreneur Scotty Branch. Its lab is accredited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. They have dedicated 2,000 square feet of its new 22,000-square-foot facility to Covid-19 testing. In late August it was testing about 10,000 Covid-19 swabs per day, and had the capacity to test for 20,000 per day.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., a West Columbia manufacturer of medical products and a leading producer of medical products packaged into single doses using blow-fill seal technology. It is creating space at its Lexington County plant to manufacture vaccine doses when they become available. Since the pandemic, it has created a CLIA-certified lab for Covid-19 testing, and has a mobile lab that visits the University of South Carolina and several area employers.
Modjoul Inc., founded in Clemson in 2016 by Eric Martinez, CEO, and Jen Thorson, COO. Modjoul sells a platform designed to enhance worker safety by having them wear a device called a SmartBelt that tracks their movements. Linked software identifies movements that might be dangerous — from certain bending movements to overly fast cornering with a forklift. With Covid-19, it is enabling employers to use the devices to screen body temperatures and signal workers with a vibration if they are violating social distancing. In the event of an outbreak, the data can be used for rapid contact tracing.
“When you think about it, you’re able to reduce the amount of time businesses are shut down because you know who people have been in contact with,” Thorson said. “It’s one of those happy coincidences that we’re able to use our existing device, not only for safety, but also for that illness, contact tracing and social distancing.”
Thorson said her biggest lesson from the pandemic has been “don’t be afraid to pivot quickly.”
“We have a team of really smart people, and we can figure out almost any problem,” she said.
At Nephron Pharmaceuticals in Lexington County, one of their biggest lines is generic inhalation solutions and suspension products, including those used to treat severe respiratory distress symptoms associated with Covid-19.
The company has grown from 75 employees with two products in 2001 to about 80 products and about 1,100 full-time employees, in addition to 900 part-time workers, interns and apprentices. It announced an expansion this year that will expand its buildings to cover 1 million square feet by early 2021. It expects to add 380 more full-time employees by 2024, and much of the hiring is now underway.
“We want them to be trained and ready as the new buildings come online,” CEO Lou Kennedy said.
About 110,000 square feet of its expansion is for manufacturing vaccine doses, antibiotics or other chemo-therapeutic agents. Nephron Pharmaceuticals is one of seven U.S. companies identified by the federal government as key to getting a vaccine produced — once one has been developed.
“We know we’re going to need a heck of a lot of vaccines all at once if we’re going to get everybody healthy,” she said. “We are doing anything we can within our bandwidth to be patriotic Americans and help with the eradication of Covid-19.”
The New York Times first reported Jan. 8 on the emergence of a novel coronavirus in China’s Wuhan province. Two days later, China reported its first death from the virus.
The first case in the United States was confirmed Jan. 21.
On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization named the disease Covid-19.
By Feb. 26 there were 60 known cases in the United States, and Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, asked the American public to brace itself for a global pandemic.
That day President Trump said infections were “going very substantially down,” and that “we’re going to be pretty soon at only five people.”
Just two weeks later, when Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, there were at least 1,240 people in 42 states and Washington, D.C., who had tested positive for Covid-19, and 37 had died.
Meanwhile, a wave of change was rolling toward Carrington’s 7-year-old company on Shop Road, named for its location by Columbia’s Norfolk-Southern railroad repair shops and better known for parking for UofSC football games.
His children were home from school, many offices were closing and employees were working from home — if at all.
“It was interesting,” he said. “We were not sure what this meant for us, let alone as a business, because a lot of our manufacturing customers’ factories shut down as well.”
After the weekend call from the hospital executive, Carrington tried to solve its first problem: The hospital needed fully protective face shields that could be worn in the intensive care unit, or other areas with dense aerosols.
“Literally overnight, we went from concept to prototype, rapid prototyping, multiple iterations,” Carrington said. “They were asking for 3,000 units, which was no problem. And they needed them immediately.”
The next day, Zverse got a call from a government agency that needed 10,000 face shields. And on the third day, another hospital system called needing 50,000 shields.
The second hospital system needed face shields that could be sterilized and reused because they were going through disposables at a rate of 5,000 per day for just one of its hospitals.
While 3-D printers are splendid devices for fast turnaround and multiple design changes, they are not designed for a lot of volume.
And 50,000 units is what Carrington defined as “a lot of volume.”
So, it was decision time.
More calls were coming in. “Once the word got out to a few people, we started getting direct messages from doctors, family members of nurses, who were all pleading for help, because there was no PPP at all,” Carrington said.
The mulling was not a long process. The company simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand using 3-D printers.
So after the call for 50,000 units, Carrington decided to move from the 3-D printing underway to injection molding, “which was a significant step, because it was a real capital investment during a time when everything was very uncertain.”
But he knew it would also allow Zverse to ramp up much more dramatically, “help a lot more people, help the company and give us a little bit more security.”
The actual injection molding would be done by outside manufacturers, but Zverse had to supply them with the molds.
According to Rex Plastics of Vancouver, Wash., an injection mold can cost $1,000 to $80,000 depending on size and complexity. A typical mold costs $12,000.
Zverse dealt with the issue by requiring its customers to pay half the cost up front. Hospitals typically pay net 30, or 30 days after invoice, but they quickly agreed. “These are different times,” Carrington said.
“We were able to get the first 5,000 units coming out of the first mold within about two weeks.”
In all, Zverse built about 24 tools for injection molding.
Carrington credited much of the company’s success to its network of manufacturers.
“We had all the right people in our ecosystem to accomplish all this.
“We sit in the middle of a lot of manufacturing capabilities. That’s what we’ve done forever,” he said. “This is the first time we took a product of our own and went to market with it.”
After injection molding was in place, Zverse spread the word that it had the capacity to make 100,000 units a day — mass manufacturing.
“We got flooded with orders from every hospital, every government agency you can imagine,” he said. “It was completely overwhelming.”
Carrington started calling his shareholders and others in his support network to solve emerging problems, like transportation logistics.
“That whole period was insane for everyone involved,” he said. “But it was super fulfilling.”
One of Zverse’s biggest contracts was for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 2 million face shields. At the time, there were reports about suppliers not being able to deliver equipment and PPE to the VA.
But Zverse supplied the order from April through June.
“That was a herculean effort to be able to deliver that on time,” he said. “The VA said we were one of the best suppliers that they had.”
In all, Zverse supplied 3 million of its health model ZShields over 75 days.
As businesses began trying to reopen in May, there was a broad need for some forms of barriers and PPE —a need that is likely to last beyond the pandemic.
Some restaurants called for the face shields Zverse was delivering to hospitals.
“I looked at them and said if I walked into a restaurant and saw someone wearing this, I wouldn’t want to eat there. That’s going to be bad for business,” he said.
Instead, Zverse designed ZShield Plex —something that would be a comfortable and effective barrier from transferring droplets from your mouth. The shield attaches at the neck and can flip down when on break or away from where needed.
“That one captured everyone’s attention,” he said.
Zverse started taking pre-orders for the shield in May from businesses, schools and others, and has since shipped millions.
Carrington said Zverse was able to make its huge pivot to meet the demands of the pandemic moment with “brute force and an incredible team.”
“The core group that’s been here since March has been averaging like 16-hour days since March, including weekends,” he said. “Everyone is driven by the fact that we’re able to produce something that is able to solve problems.
“Right now the world needs a lot of problems solved,” Carrington said.
“I don’t think there’s been a time in history when the world has needed as much innovation in one moment as it does right now.”
Greenville's Humimic Medical pivots to meet pandemic needs see more
When the coronavirus pandemic left businesses around the nation struggling with dwindling orders and growing bills, some took a chance on something new.
Among them was Greenville-based Humimic Medical.
The 10-year-old company produces synthetic gels that mimic human tissue used in medical applications. Almost overnight, it switched to producing personal protective equipment (PPE), illustrating that there are opportunities everywhere for people with innovative ideas.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing and the path was punctuated by a couple of Hail Mary passes, said Humimic founder and CEO Joel Edwards.
“None of our (products) had any ties with PPE or any Covid-related things … and everything was going pretty well,” he said. “We thought we were bulletproof.”
Then the phones stopped ringing, he said. There were no orders for three months.
Edwards spoke at the first of a series of webinars called “Leading Beyond the Crisis” that examines companies that responded to the pandemic. The webinars are hosted by InnoVision Awards, a grass roots non-profit dedicated to innovation and technology across the state.
Originally a defense industry company, Humimic began to focus on the medical side about four years ago, he said.
And in the face of the virus, it started looking at what else it could do, he said.
Since the company had a plastics supplier in Mount Pleasant and had just bought some new equipment, it turned to face shields when the virus exposed the desperate need for PPE, he said.
“We thought raw product (plastic, foam) was easy to come by, but when we started looking around, none were easy to secure,” he said. “And I’m running numbers in my head and thinking what did I get myself into.”
His contact in Mount Pleasant was his “only saving grace.” Then the elastic supply dried up.
“So we said, heck, Velcro is readily available,” he said. “And we started to get as much as we could get our hands on.”
The first shield the company made had straps that weren’t long enough to fit most men’s heads, he said. But once that problem was solved, it did an initial run of 500, he said.
Company officials thought they’d sell their shields for $4 to $4.50, he said. But with the Chinese selling theirs for $2 to $3, he wondered how the company could potentially make a profit and keep everyone employed.
“It was a hard thing for us to get people to understand. We were not looking to gouge the market and get rich,” Edwards said. “But our cost for the plastic was two to three times what Chinese were charging.”
In the end, he said, with no assembly line experience, the company had to produce 1,500 a day to make about $1 profit per shield.
“We knew price was going to be a hard thing,” he said. “The only way we were able to do it was to scoop up the plastic.”
As other suppliers ran out of stock, Humimic found markets at veterans’ centers, VA hospitals, dentist offices, nursing homes and mortuaries.
In the end, the company was able to produce some 80,000 shields sold around the country on Amazon and Walmart websites, Edwards said.
He said Humimic still has several thousand shields in stock, but it came out OK even though orders for PPE are slowing down.
If Covid flares up this winter, he said, the need might grow again.
This week's South Carolina life sciences newsletter is hot off the press! see more
Enjoy this week's newsletter from SCBIO featuring updates on South Carolina's inaugural Women in Life Sciences initiatives... a report on MUSC's growing economic impact statewide... details on more Palmetto State organizations stepping up for the greater good... an update from EVP Erin Ford and much, much more... click here to read complete details!
MUSC has multi-billion-dollar impact on South Carolina... see more
A new report shows the Medical University of South Carolina has an annual economic impact on the state of about $5.6 billion. MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley, M.D., knows where a big part of the credit lies. “MUSC Health has grown significantly in the past 18 months and this report details the growing economic impact across the entire state of South Carolina.”
In early 2019, MUSC bought four hospitals in Lancaster, Florence, Marion and Chester, creating a regional hospital network and establishing itself as a health care organization that reaches well beyond Charleston.
Joseph Von Nessen, Ph.D., a research economist at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, led the six-month economic impact study. “MUSC maintains a unique and sizeable statewide economic footprint. Its impact in Charleston may already be well known, but it’s also important to recognize that MUSC’s economic benefits extend well beyond the borders of the Tri-county region.”
For example: “About 38,000 people in South Carolina can attribute their jobs either directly or indirectly to the activities that are going on at MUSC every day. It really shows how significant MUSC’s impact is,” Von Nessen said.
Belimed Steam Sterilizers now announced compatible for crisis strategy decontamination of specific single-use N95 respiratorsBelimed collaborating with 3M manufacturing see more
Courtesy of Lowcountry Biz SC
Can N95 respirators be decontaminated in a steam sterilization cycle for reuse in situations of severe personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage? That question has been explored through collaboration between a world-leading respirator manufacturer, 3M, and a global leader in sterilization solutions, Belimed.
“The expert team at 3M was open-minded and very supportive in evaluating this question,” says Markus Auly, Head of Scientific Affairs at Belimed. “After two rounds of testing six different respirator models steam-treated by Belimed, and a thorough technical analysis of the data, 3M felt confident in the compatibility of the process with certain respirator models.”
3M’s latest version of the Technical Bulletin confirms that one standard 250° F sterilization cycle in Belimed Medical Steam Sterilizer models MST-H or MST-V does not compromise the form, fit, and function of their flat-fold respirators.
The benefit of evaluating and confirming compatibility with this standard steam sterilization process is that it is the gold standard among decontamination technologies because of its high microbiocidal efficacy, even in the presence of residual soils. From a resource standpoint, it is safe to use due to freedom from toxic residues, easy to administer, and has low processing costs, using only water and electricity.
Steam decontamination of N95 respirators will double the availability of 3M flat-fold respirators during a supply crisis in any healthcare center that has a Belimed Steam Sterilizer MST-H or MST-V.
During the global shortage in the last months, the supply of N95 respirators in all regions of the world, including healthcare leaders like the USA, Germany, or the Netherlands, has been tight. It soon became clear that disposing of single-use respirators after one use (standard protocol) could leave health care workers exposed due to lack of supply.
Hospitals around the world are seeking options to provide respirators to their employees to help reduce their risk of exposure when working with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. The solutions include extended use and/or contingency reprocessing methods, both of which have their challenges.
Previously, Belimed had published a white paper explaining these reprocessing options that various countries were adopting to alleviate the scarcity of disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 respirators, surgical gowns, or face shields. The goal was to share this information with healthcare facilities across the globe. The whitepaper can be downloaded on the Belimed website.
Now, with the evaluation by 3M of steam decontamination of N95 respirators, specific programmed cycles of the Belimed Steam Sterilizer MST-H or MST-V were determined to be compatible with specific 3M respirator models.
“Belimed’s number one priority has always been to protect the health and safety of hospital staff and their patients. With our expertise in sterile processing we want to contribute our part and create certainty in uncertain times,” says Dominik Arnold, CEO of Belimed. “Now our customers and the healthcare community can be confident to have a more reliable fall-back solution in times of short supply of N95 respirators.”
For more information please check 3M’s technical bulletin “Decontamination of 3M Filtering Facepiece Respirators, such as N95 Respirators, in the United States – Considerations” and Belimed’s website (www.belimed.com).
Belimed AG is a leading provider of product and service solutions for the sterilization, disinfection, and cleaning of medical and surgical instruments. The company, with its headquarters in Zug (Switzerland), can look back on more than 50 years of history. We are continuously developing our technology-based portfolio and are always looking for innovative solutions to improve reliability, efficiency and sustainability in sterile supply departments.
We are engineers of confidence: we listen to our customers and find the right solutions for their challenges. We create optimal conditions for a better working environment. Our comprehensive range of sterile workflow solutions ranges from planning and conception to industry-leading systems and consumables to professional services and data connection options. In addition, we offer our customers training and further education opportunities.
The focus of our work is the unlimited trust of our customers. Together we make an important contribution to medical progress and ensure the safety and health of patients and medical personnel.
South Carolina life sciences is booming, with new organizations growing and moving here see more
Comprised of 650 life sciences firms, with wages nearly double state averages and an annual economic impact over $12 billion, South Carolina life sciences employs 43,000 professionals in research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotech and products. It’s a powerful force in today’s Palmetto State economy.
The fastest growing segment of the state’s innovation economy, life sciences shows no signs of slowing — despite a global pandemic that has advanced public awareness of the vital sector.
Life sciences’ 6 major segments include pharmaceuticals/biotech (including such state organizations as Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Thorne and Thermo Fisher Scientific), medical devices/medtech (Abbott, Arthrex and AVX), Health IT/digital health (ChartSpan), research-testing-diagnostics-labs (Greenwood Genetics Center, Precision Genetics and Vikor Scientific), bioscience distribution (SoftBox Systems), and Bio-Ag. Every sector is well-represented across South Carolina, with life sciences active in at least 43 of our 46 counties.
What makes the industry even more compelling is that it averages triple the R&D spend of all other industries and is highly recession resistant due to its connectivity with healthcare. An $8 trillion annual global healthcare spend is supported by a $1.5 trillion global life sciences industry – with the United States responsible for almost half of the world’s innovations.
To help the Palmetto State become a significant player in life sciences, SCBIO was refocused 3 years ago – with economic development as the focal point. Providing support for existing industry, working with economic development organizations to recruit global life sciences companies, and developing strategies to grow our own companies has had a seismic impact on SCBIO and its stakeholders — and ushered in a new era ripe with opportunity.
Aligning with the SC Department of Commerce in 2017 helped SCBIO to triple revenue in 3 years, more than quintuple membership, develop a full-time multi-disciplinary team, and cultivate an extraordinary board of directors from industry, academia, healthcare, core service providers, and economic development partners.
SCBIO has become a catalyst for and voice of South Carolina life sciences. From offices in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, SCBIO represents companies in the advanced medicines, medical devices, equipment, diagnostics, IT, and healthcare outcome industries. As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members and allies include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups.
Working with allies and partners, SCBIO created the state’s first ever SC Life Sciences Strategic Plan – now in its third iteration — to build a nationally competitive and sustainable ecosystem focused on building, advancing, innovating and growing the industry.
And innovation is the lifeblood of progress. For the state to become an innovation destination for life sciences, the effort requires relentless pursuit – of talent, of transformational ideas, of organizations bringing operations and R&D to our state, and of an enhanced ecosystem that supports existing industry while growing our own companies.
Life sciences innovation has a rich legacy in South Carolina, drawing on the notable talents and creativity of the research universities of Clemson, University of South Carolina, and MUSC… a Top 25 national health system in Prisma Health… plus South Carolina Research Authority, Greenwood Genetics Center and others whose ground-breaking work has earned South Carolina a deserved reputation as a life sciences up-and-comer.
From pioneering medical grade electrolytic capacitors that made thoracic implantable defibrillators possible at St. Jude Medical (now Abbott)… to the recent invention and introduction by MUSC, ZIAN and Rhythmlink of a novel safety electrode that has the potential to reduce needle sticks in surgical settings around the globe, South Carolina life sciences innovation is on the move.
Even facing a global pandemic, SC’s life science companies are on the front lines and performing at a high level. Entrepreneurs and academic institutions have deftly shifted focus or pivoted production to address needs resulting from the crisis. Providing everything from COVID-19 PCR test kits to antibody tests, from respiratory therapies to face shields, and from developing specialty garments for frontline workers to being selected to conduct Phase III vaccine trials in the hunt for a COVID cure, South Carolina is now a part of the global solution team.
A prime example is Columbia’s ZVerse, a digital manufacturer. Seeing desperate need for protective shields for healthcare workers, the early-stage company quickly pivoted to become one of America’s largest manufacturers of reusable face shields. ZVerse then devised a new, proprietary shield that is more comfortable to wear over long periods of time. Sales have soared.
The booming ecosystem includes technology incubators and accelerators across the state, providing entrepreneurs with guidance and opportunity to collaborate with peers. A recent SCRA initiative—the creation of the South Carolina Business Incubator Association — is an important step in helping organizations share best practices and stimulate innovation.
Along with Southeastern partners Global Center for Medical Innovation and Health Connect South, SCBIO is championing a unique innovation partnership: The Southeast HealthTech Collaboration. Leveraging complementary strengths, resources and networks, the group will identify pressing health needs in our region without requiring major new investment in infrastructure or capital.
Now a finalist for a major grant in the EDA 2020 Build to Scale Venture Challenge, the Southeast HealthTech Collaboration will launch a three-year program to:
- Convene healthcare leaders to identify top healthcare challenges and innovators working on technology-based solutions to address them;
- Accelerate best solutions through development and into commercialization; and
- Scale startups and networks to drive investment and job creation across South Carolina and Georgia.
With a focus on minority and underserved populations, the initiative will accelerate development and commercialization of technological solutions to address unmet clinical and health needs, leading to scaling of startup growth and a sustainable economic engine.
As American poet Robert Frost penned:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Despite miles to go, there is plentiful evidence that our state is “punching above our weight class”, given our relative size and resources. With innovation blossoming and a surging passion for improving prosperity, the promise of South Carolina and its future has never been brighter.