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healthcare advances

  • sam patrick posted an article
    The quarterly series, titled InnovationX, will launch with an initial event in Columbia in May see more

    The University of South Carolina announced Wednesday that it will host a series of innovation-oriented events this year, which will highlight research, product development, and concept advancements at the University and across the state of South Carolina.

    The quarterly series, titled InnovationX, will launch with an initial event on the Columbia campus in May 2022. Future InnovationX events are also planned for Charleston and Greenville. The four-part series will foster connections and partnerships across academia, government, and industry, both within South Carolina and nationally.

    The educational series will feature engaging keynote speakers, live demonstrations, interactive panels and more. Each one-day event will focus on innovation across a different topic area, from future factories to industry convergence, modern healthcare, and entrepreneurship. Event topics will cover a broad range of topics, including:

    • Innovation in Flux: Changing Context of Innovation
    • Cutting-edge Industry Convergence: Blurring the boundaries between Academia, Industry, and next-level Innovation
    • Rapid Innovation in Modernized Healthcare
    • Entrepreneurial Effectiveness: Turning Ideas into Vision 

    “The University has established itself as the state’s catalyst between academia, industry, and government” said Bill Kirkland, Executive Director at UofSC’s Office of Economic Engagement. “This innovative series will serve as the single convergence point, designed to showcase USC as the driving force for education, workforce development and innovation here in the state of South Carolina.”

    Participants will include UofSC industry partners like Siemens, IBM, Samsung, Yaskawa, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, ROVE, Seagate and Fortinet.

    Event dates and more information about InnovationX will be announced in early 2022.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    It is the largest amount the Endowment has awarded MUSC in a grant cycle see more

    The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Foundation has received four grants totaling $4.59 million from The Duke Endowment. It is the largest amount the Endowment has awarded MUSC in a grant cycle. Since 1994, the Endowment has invested nearly $40 million in MUSC’s lifesaving mission.

    “We are grateful to The Duke Endowment for its major investment in our mission and their ongoing partnership to help us lead health innovation for the lives we touch,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “These grants will make a significant difference as we seek to improve the well-being of children and their families, expand access to care and bolster mental health support.” 

    The grants will launch four initiatives, each with long-term sustainability plans that advance MUSC’s vision to lead health innovation for the lives we touch. 

    “The Duke Endowment is proud to partner with MUSC in developing and providing these innovative models of care,” said Lin Hollowell, director of the Endowment’s Health Care program area. “Our founder wanted his philanthropy to increase access to health care and improve well-being for all Carolinians, and that still drives our work today.”

    • Virtual home visits for newborns and their families

                    Grant amount: $1,850,000

            South Carolina’s infant mortality rate consistently ranks among the highest in the nation. Low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidents are among the leading causes of death for babies in South Carolina. 

            With an Endowment grant of $1,850,000, MUSC will start a virtual home visit program that gives families the healthiest start possible. Before they leave the hospital, families will be asked if they’d like a registered nurse to follow up with them at home. 

                    During a virtual home visit, the nurse will check on the health and safety of the whole family, also screening for signs of depression and domestic violence. If needed, the nurse will connect families with additional resources and support available through the nonprofit SC Thrive. 

    • Transform health care in rural Pee Dee region

                    Grant amount: $1,325,000

                    A $1,325,000 grant from The Duke Endowment will help MUSC to transform health care in South Carolina’s rural Pee Dee region. 

                    With this grant, MUSC will develop an innovative care model for its new hospital under construction in northern Williamsburg County. 

            This innovative care model will address one of the biggest issues facing Williamsburg County: a lack of diverse health care providers. MUSC will create a pipeline program to recruit diverse Doctor of Nursing Practice and Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies students from rural and low-income communities. Students who commit to working at the new hospital for at least two years after graduation will receive a scholarship to MUSC.

            The hospital will also be fully integrated with the MUSC Health system, with shared medical records and robust telemedicine capabilities that will provide patients with access to services and specialists throughout the entire statewide system.

    • Support mental health of pregnant women and new mothers

                    Grant amount: $895,229

                    An estimated one in seven pregnant women and new mothers become clinically depressed during pregnancy or in the year after birth. Most obstetricians and gynecologists do not have the training or resources to help these women. As a result, few are diagnosed or treated. 

            A $895,229 grant from The Duke Endowment will support a new MUSC program that provides pregnant women and new moms with immediate access to mental health care. The program will connect women to a care coordinator who can assess their risk and, if needed, get them access to a psychiatrist within 30 minutes of the call. 

                    The program also includes real-time psychiatric consultations and training for providers who serve pregnant and postpartum women.

    • Mental health support for sickle cell disease patients 

                    Grant amount: $525,229

                    Sickle cell disease is a hereditary blood disorder that predominately affects the Black community. In South Carolina, as many as 4,500 people are living with the disease. 

                    Sickle cell disease can cause extreme pain and other serious health issues that lead to frequent hospital stays. Symptoms of depression and anxiety are also common in these patients. Some patients also develop substance abuse issues, trying to manage the pain.

            Currently, MUSC’s adult and pediatric sickle cell disease clinics are focused on pain management. With an Endowment grant of $525,229, MUSC will be able to dedicate a clinical   psychologist and licensed professional counselor to embed mental health services in these clinics.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Thorne Healthtech makes name for itself globally from base in Charleston, SC see more

    Compliments of Investment Monitor

    After visiting 100 potential sites across eight different states, nutraceutical company Thorne HealthTech began a huge relocation to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2014 and has never looked back. Here, Thorne COO Tom McKenna explains what drove its decision and subsequent success.

    There are many reasons why a life sciences business might make the monumental decision to relocate their company’s headquarters or manufacturing base either nationally or internationally. Choosing exactly where to move is a significant challenge that requires extensive research, visits and careful evaluation.

    This was a challenge that Tom McKenna, chief operating officer at Thorne HealthTech, faced first-hand when he led the company’s relocation some 3,500 miles (5,600km) across the US, from a small town in northern Idaho to one within greater Charleston, South Carolina. Here, he shares his experience of the big move and why he feels the relocation was more than worthwhile. 

    Thorne was founded in 1989 as a manufacturer of premium-quality nutritional supplements. We have since created digital health solutions providing diagnostics and analytics to identify unmet nutritional deficiencies and provide world-class wellness and prevention education. Our goal is to help people at all stages of life to live and age more gracefully.

    We believe the future of wellness is personal. For the first time in history, with the cutting-edge advancements in sequencing technology, artificial intelligence and nutritional research, we can now efficiently offer personalised approaches to wellness, which were previously reserved for late-stage disease care or academic research. We strive to be the differentiated leader in the wellness industry by deploying our scientifically rigorous approach to supporting personalised health and wellness.

    What prompted the move from Idaho and what were you looking for in your new location?

    In 2013, we recognised that by 2018 we would be out of capacity at our manufacturing facility. While there was plenty of available land in the area, our decision not to expand locally was based on utility capacity, lack of local labour and challenges in attracting talent, as well as the significant distance from the airport and major roadways.

    We first looked at around 1,000 different options across all 50 states. We narrowed it to 100, and I personally visited every one of those over a two-year period. During that time, we were introduced to South Carolina’s then governor of state, [Nikki Haley]. She suggested the Charleston region and we looked at some sites. The place we ended up was a no-brainer compared with all the other options. After two years of trying to find a home, when we finally came to Charleston we thought ‘that’s it’!

    The key criteria in our decision-making included a business-friendly environment; a robust, affordable and available talent pool with comparable salaries to Idaho; proximity to the local airport and major transit ways; an appealing area for staff to relocate; and attractive state and local incentives. Charleston ticked all these boxes.

    What are the risks during a business relocation and how did you mitigate these?

    One risk is losing or damaging a critical asset or transitional requirement among the significant multitude of moving parts. This required detailed, almost military-like planning and execution to move some 2,500 pieces of equipment, furnishings and tens of thousands of inventory items.

    Thorne HealthTech’s corporate office and manufacturing site is located at 620 Industrial Blvd, Summerville, South Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Thorne HealthTech)

    To make sure there are no operational disruptions, you also need a certain critical mass of existing staff to move with you, in many cases early, and to stay at least for a while to initiate operations, recruit and train new staff. We worked with Charleston’s economic development organisation called Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA). CRDA helped facilitate and participate in 14 ‘familiarisation’ trips for a total of 140 employees and nearly 300 persons. We would kick the trip off with a seminar on the area and the community, led by CRDA. We would then hop on a bus and CRDA would take us on a three-hour tour around different neighbourhoods and areas, down to the beach and out for a barbeque.

    It was very informal and almost familial, and to their credit they showed up 14 times to do these things, each time with welcome bags. CRDA was very helpful in getting folks to see the value of the local community. In fact, CRDA was critical in helping us convince 40% of our Idaho-based staff to relocate to South Carolina. When we got here, they were very helpful on the hiring side too.

    What attracted your employees to the Charleston region?

    What the greater Charleston area provides is a culture that is perhaps not a lot different from the Pacific Northwest. Our employees love to be in the outdoors – they love to hunt, fish, camp and hike. You can do all those things that you could do in Idaho here in Charleston. The big difference is that instead of doing those things in a short window in the summer, in Charleston you can enjoy them for 12 months of the year, thanks to the climate.

    The ocean was another big attraction for folks, as was the proximity to multiple downtowns. In Idaho, the closest city was a two-hour drive away. Here, you can generally be in downtown Charleston in 30 minutes or less, depending on where you live. At the same time, it is not a huge metropolitan area like New York City, Philadelphia or Washington DC, for example.

    Are there any ways Thorne HealthTech is more competitive with operations in Charleston?

    We are now able to attract more diversified and talented staff, in greater numbers. The proximity to the airport and interstate highway transit has greatly reduced our freight costs and improved our supply chain management and timelines. When we wanted to ship and receive materials in northern Idaho, the largest interstate was an hour away. Here, it is just blocks away.

    Our new facility and others we are now expanding into have materially improved our productivity and lowered the cost of operations. We now produce more items in-house and have greater control over our supply, and as a result have dramatically reduced our order fulfilment timelines, which are now comparable to Amazon. We continue to feel we made the right decision in our move to Charleston.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Clemson researchers pursue cutting-edge science and targeted medicine to improve lifespan, quality see more

    In the last 25 years, rigorous research, broad medical collaborations and lifesaving interventions have made huge strides for cancer treatment. That means survival rates are up across the board for almost all forms of cancer, including the two most common ones for South Carolinians: breast and prostate cancer.

    As recently as the late 1990s, there were clinical trials, and there were heroic efforts, but there were very few effective treatments for combatting some of the most highly aggressive forms of cancer. Twenty-five years later, some of those same cancers have a more than 80 percent survival rate. 

    Clemson can point to health innovation through research that has played notable roles in improving health outcomes for patients statewide. And that’s because cancer intervention isn’t isolated to bedside care from a nurse or petri-dish analysis from the lab.

    Today, cancer treatment is:

    • Powered by huge data sets that build the artificial intelligence needed to identify root causes of and precision cures for cancer. 
    • Innovative approaches, such as precision radio frequency that targets cancer cells rather than an IV drip administering chemotherapy drugs.  
    • Cellular research to develop new methods of finding and eliminating cancer faster, more safely and more efficiently. 
    • Identifying and preventing the side effects of treatment drugs and improving quality of life for patients even as they and their health care teams aggressively fight cancer. 

    Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Thorne undertakes IPO for growth in SC see more

    Compliments of Post and Courier

    A life-science company that packed up shop and moved the bulk of its business to the South Carolina coast from the mountainous West a few years ago has taken another big leap.

    Only not quite as big as it had hoped.

    Supplements researcher and manufacturer Thorne HealthTech Inc. launched its initial public offering last week, but not before dramatically downsizing the size of the deal.

    The company had been hoping to haul in as much as $135 million by selling shares for as much as $15 each. It backed off that number last week and ended up raising $70 million. 

    The Nasdaq-listed shares started trading when the opening bell rang Thursday under the symbol “THRN” and stumbled badly out of the gate, falling 24 percent by the end of the session.

    It was a decidedly chilly market debut for a company that’s aiming to make deeper inroads into the growing and highly fragmented personal health-and-wellness industry, where no single player has amassed more than 5 percent of the market, according to Thorne’s calculations. A report by Grand View Research earlier this year forecast the size of the dietary supplement business to nearly double to $271 billion by 2028 from $140.3 billion in 2020.

    Against that backdrop, Thorne said its goal is to redefine “consumer health and building a brand with science-backed personalized products that meet the highest standards of quality, safety and efficacy.”

    “We have a significant opportunity to continue to penetrate the product categories and channels we compete in today,’” according to its IPO filings.

    The stock offering is the latest step in that plan. Up to $20 million of investor proceeds. along with existing cash reserves, will fund the development and testing of new dietary supplements as well as the company’s recently acquired Onegivity Health clinical research platform. As much as $30 million will go toward sales and marketing initiatives and Thorne’s expansion into new global locations. The rest will be used to pay off debt from a Japanese lender that matures next year and for other general purposes.

    “Our organization has never been more excited about the future growth potential for and impact of our company as we are today,” CEO Paul Jacobson wrote in a letter to prospective investors.

    While it lists New York City as its home office, Thorne is essentially a South Carolina business. 

    It was nearly five years ago when the company announced plans to move most of its key operations to a new 270,000-square-foot building in Summerville from northern Idaho. The deal included a $35 million capital investment and 350 jobs of all varieties. 

    “This facility consists of manufacturing and production, research and development, medical affairs, engineering, quality management, laboratory testing, brand marketing, inside sales, customer service, finance, legal, human resources, warehousing and materials management, procurement and safety functions,” Thorne said in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  

    It also noted that it recently inked a new five-year lease for an additional 115,500 square feet of storage and distribution space in Summerville.

    “This will expand our finished goods warehousing and shipping capabilities to the eastern United States and international markets,” the company said.

    The business went by Thorne Research when it embarked on its cross-country relocation quest in 2014. By then, it had outgrown its manufacturing base in Sandpoint, Idaho, and wasn’t sure it could add onto its building or even extend its lease. Over the next two years, it scouted dozens of sites around the country. The Lowcountry and York County near Charlotte emerged as the two top contenders.

    Jacobson thought the Charleston region would be appealing to customers and other visitors. Also, Thorne thought it was a plus that the area was growing and home to several colleges, an established medical research community and a major U.S. seaport.

    “It didn’t hurt any that Charleston is a culturally diverse and interesting place,” Jacobson said in a 2016 interview. “That’s important to us because it allows us to attract the kind of people we want to recruit.”

    The former Goldman Sachs banker forged an equally unconventional path to the corner office at Thorne, which was started in Seattle in 1984 and relocated six years later to Sandpoint, not far from Spokane in eastern Washington. He recounted in his investor letter how he came to acquire the business with some partners in 2010, inspired in part by a former drug industry boss he met while serving on a board of directors.

    “He was tired of me asking how big pharma could turn compounds that barely outperformed placebo or natural products into multibillion-dollar drugs, and one day turned to me and said, ‘If you think you’re so smart, go start a natural products company.’ He said that in order to do it right we would need to compile clinical data to demonstrate the efficacy of a more natural approach to health. ... This sparked my interest to determine whether he was correct, driving me to spend several years researching the natural product industry,” Jacobson wrote.

    Thorne now develops, manufactures and ships about 300 different supplements, health testing kits and other wellness products that it sells to 3 million customers through wholesalers, retail stores, online resellers and a growing subscription business. The company also said it works with 42,000 health care professionals and thousands of pro athletes.

    The IPO documents put some hard numbers on the Thorne’s financial trajectory. 

    Sales jumped 35 percent last year to $138.5 million, suggesting the company benefited from the health-and-fitness boom that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis.

    And while Thorne hasn’t turned a net profit on an annual basis — it lost $4 million last year — it was in the black as of June 30 by a margin of $4.4 million. Meanwhile, revenue continues to climb sharply, rising 38 percent from the first six months to $87.4 million.

    “We have experienced significant sales growth of our supplements and health tests through the acquisition of new customers and strong customer retention,” Thorne said.

    While its debut on Wall Street was a bit on the cold side, Wall Street appeared to warm up a bit to the newcomer on its second day in the public markets. Shares rebounded 10 percent Friday to close at $8.35. 

     September 27, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Major donation to MUSC see more

    Compliments of Lowcountry Biz SC

    Sports executive and retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Harvey Schiller and his wife, Marcia, have committed to donating $1 million to establish the Harvey and Marcia Schiller Surgical Innovation Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health). The center will be dedicated to innovating surgical procedures and developing new surgical tools and technologies to improve patient care.

    The center, currently located on the fourth floor of the MUSC Clinical Sciences Building, is a collaborative effort among faculty members in the departments of Surgery, Regenerative Medicine and Bioengineering. Heart surgeon Arman Kilic, M.D., an internationally known expert on artificial intelligence (AI), will direct the center.

    “The Harvey and Marcia Schiller Surgical Innovation Center will transform how surgery is performed,” said Kilic. “What we learn and develop at the center will not only change how patients in South Carolina are treated, it will change what’s possible for patients nationwide. Centers across the country will look to us as a leading source of innovation in surgical health care.”

    Schiller is a graduate of The Citadel and earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Michigan. He has held leadership positions with the Southeastern Conference (SEC), YankeeNets, Turner Sports, Diversified Search, sailing’s America’s Cup and SailGP, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for service in Vietnam.

    “Innovation is a core value at MUSC. As someone who has made a career out of pushing the envelope, Harvey Schiller gets it,” said MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS. “The investment he and Marcia have made in MUSC will allow us to keep pushing the boundaries of science to deliver cutting-edge solutions, with the goal of achieving better, safer, and in some cases, less-costly care for patients. We are tremendously grateful for their generosity and this innovative partnership.”

    The Schillers have also generously supported thyroid cancer research at MUSC through their family foundation.  

     

    About MUSC

    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.

     September 24, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Large-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.

    About Helix

    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

     September 24, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Charles River Labs quietly continues its critical work to save lives see more

    Compliments of the Associated Press

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — It’s one of the stranger, lesser-known aspects of U.S. health care — the striking, milky-blue blood of horseshoe crabs is a critical component of tests to ensure injectable medications such as coronavirus vaccines aren’t contaminated.

    To obtain it, harvesters bring many thousands of the creatures to laboratories to be bled each year, and then return them to the sea — a practice that has drawn criticism from conservationists because some don’t survive the process.

    The blood, which is blue due to its copper content, is coveted for proteins used to create the LAL test, a process used to screen medical products for bacteria. Synthetic alternatives aren’t widely accepted by the health care industry and haven’t been approved federally, leaving the crabs as the only domestic source of this key ingredient.

    Many of these crabs are harvested along the coast of South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster promoted the niche industry as key to the development of a domestic medical supply chain, while also noting that environmental concerns should be explored.

    “We don’t want to have to depend on foreign countries for a lot of reasons, including national security, so it’s good to see this company thriving in the United States,” McMaster told The Associated Press. He spoke this month during a visit to Charles River Laboratories at its Charleston facilities, to which AP was granted rare access. “We want to do everything we can to onshore all of these critical operations.”

    Horseshoe crabs — aquatic arthropods shaped like helmets with long tails — are more akin to scorpions than crabs, and older than dinosaurs. They’ve been scurrying along the brackish floors of coastal waters for hundreds of millions of years. Their eggs are considered a primary fat source for more than a dozen species of migratory shore birds, according to South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources.

    Their value to avoiding infection emerged after scientists researching their immune response injected bacteria into horseshoe crabs in the 1950s. They ultimately developed the LAL test, and the technique has been used since the 1970s to keep medical materials and supplies free of bacteria.

    Their biomedical use has been on the rise, with 464,482 crabs brought to biomedical facilities in 2018, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

    In South Carolina, that’s done only by Charles River, a Massachusetts-based company that tests 55% of the world’s injectables and medical devices — like IV bags, dialysis solutions and even surgical cleaning wipes, according to company officials.

    “We are almost the last line of defense before these drugs leave the manufacturing area and make it to a patient,” senior vice president Foster Jordan told McMaster. “If it touches your blood, it’s been tested by LAL. And, more than likely, it’s been tested by us.”

    Charles River employs local fishermen to harvest the crabs by hand, a process governed by wildlife officials that can only happen during a small annual window, when the creatures come ashore to spawn.

    Contractors bring them to the company’s bleeding facilities, then return them to the waters from which they came. During a year, Jordan said his harvesters can bring in 100,000 to 150,000 horseshoe crabs, and still can’t satisfy the growing demand.

    “We need more, though,” Jordan told McMaster, adding that his company is working with the state to open up more harvesting areas. “The population’s steady. ... We need access to more beaches, to get more crabs.”

    The practice is not without its critics, some of whom have argued that bleeding the crabs and hauling them back and forth is harmful. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10% to 15% of harvested crabs die during the process.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species overall as “vulnerable,” noting decreasing numbers as of a 2016 assessment. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission listed 2019 stock as “good” in the Southeast, but “poor” in areas around New York.

    Conservationists sued last year, accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of shirking its duty to protect areas including South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge by allowing horseshoe crab harvesting. They argued that taking out the crabs affects other species in the protected area. A federal judge temporarily halted the harvest, but was reversed following Charles River’s appeal.

    The environmental groups asked to withdraw their complaint this month after federal officials imposed a permitting process for any commercial activity in the refuge, including horseshoe harvesting, beginning Aug. 15. Even if such permits are denied, Jordan told McMaster that only 20% of its harvest came from the refuge, with most coming from further down the South Carolina coast.

    There is a synthetic alternative to the horseshoe crab blood, but it hasn’t been widely accepted in the U.S., and meanwhile, Charles River’s international competitors are making synthetics and also pressing for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which Jordan said could hamper domestic efforts like his own.

    “My mission is to make sure that any competitor that comes into the United States, from China or any of these other producers, has to go through the same regulatory process that we had to go through, to make sure that it’s safe,” Jordan said. “If all these synthetics start coming in from other countries, we’re going to lose the protection that we’ve had for all these years, and the safety, and the control of the drug supply.”

    “We want to have as much stuff made here as we can,” McMaster said in response.

    As for the environmental concerns, the governor said maintaining a healthy balance between scientific demands and the state’s ecosystems, which bolster a significant portion of South Carolina’s tourism economy, is paramount.

    “It’s like a house of cards. You pull out one part, and the rest of it will fall,” McMaster said. “So I think we have to be very careful, and be sure that any company, any business, any activity, whether it’s commercial or otherwise, meets whatever requirements are there to protect the species — birds, horseshoe crabs, any sort of life.”

  • sam patrick posted an article
    MUSC completes purchase of hospitals see more

    Compliments of Post and Courier

    Providence Health is no more in the Capital City.

    The hospital, originally founded by the Catholic Sister of Charity, is now state-owned MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center, following the finalization of its purchase by MUSC Health University Medical Center.

    With the $75 million purchase South Carolina’s second-largest hospital system added Providence’s downtown and northeast facilities to its fleet of care centers around the state, as well as the former KershawHealth hospital in Camden — now known as MUSC Health Kershaw Medical Center — and the emergency room in Fairfield County — now known as MUSC Health Fairfield Emergency and Imaging.

    The hospitals were previously owned by Tennessee-based for-profit LifePoint Health.

    All of LifePoint’s existing 2,000 employees were offered to remain on staff under the new ownership, said MUSC Health CEO Dr. Pat Cawley said.

    The deal takes MUSC to more than 2,000 beds and 19,000 employees across the state.

    Buying Providence Health is the latest in MUSC’s major expansion outside of its Charleston base where it had been contained for nearly 200 years before it branched outside the area for the first time with the acquisition of four community hospitals in 2019. The public, nonprofit health system receives financial support out of the state budget.

    The deal comes months after Prisma Health, the state’s largest health care system terminated its own agreement to purchase LifePoint’s facilities. Prisma, which operates three major hospitals in Columbia, abandoned its efforts April 9 after it was plagued for more than a year by legal and regulatory challenges.

    Had the purchase been finalized, it would have taken the Columbia area down to two hospital systems — Prisma and Lexington Medical Center. And it would have made the state’s largest system even larger.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Helping patients stay out of hospital, recover faster see more

    Courtesy Columbia Regional Business Report

     

    Prisma Health is taking key elements of inpatient care into patients’ homes to help them stay out of the hospital under a new program for the Midlands called Home Recovery Care. 

    The model has been used at Prisma Health hospitals in the Upstate, according to a news release.  

    For patients under care through Prisma Health Richland Hospital, the organization partners with Nashville, Tenn.-based Contessa to deliver the service at its third site, the news release said. 

    The program launched at Greenville Memorial Hospital in 2019 and expanded to Oconee Memorial Hospital last year. In the Upstate, the program has a 90% acceptance rate and an average patient satisfaction score of 98%, according to the release.  

    Prisma Health was one of the first health systems approved to provide Home Recovery Care to Medicare fee-for-service patients under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospitals Without Walls waiver, the release said. Programs that encourage hospitals to find healthy ways to stay out of emergency rooms and hospital rooms have been part of Medicare/Medicaid rules for years, with the COVID-19 pandemic spurring more efforts.  

    “Prisma Health has had great success with the program in the Upstate, and we are thrilled to provide this level of home care to more South Carolinians by adding it at Richland,” Bo Cofield, Prisma Health Richland Hospital CEO, said in the release. “The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced that going beyond the walls of the traditional hospital setting often gives our patients a better option for acute-level health care. Home Recovery Care was in place before the pandemic, but it is now gaining momentum. We believe this kind of service is essential to the care of our patients and is an important component of health care.” 

    Home recovery is more satisfying for patients and costs less than traditional recovery in a hospital, according to the release. 

    The care is for patients with acute, non-life-threatening medical conditions. Roughly 150 diagnoses are considered eligible for the service and range from congestive heart failure and pneumonia to dehydration, cellulitis and urinary tract infections. Patients must be evaluated by a Prisma Health doctor to determine if their conditions can be safely treated in the home instead of a standard hospital environment, according to the release. 

    The program includes 24-hour access to a recovery care coordinator and continual monitoring for up to 30 days, the release said. The in-home work is done by Prisma Health’s home-health registered nurses and by physician consultation utilizing telehealth. 

    “Since we launched the program, we have served 300 patients and saved patients from being hospitalized for 1,000 additional inpatient days,” Angela Orsky, vice president of post-acute services at Prisma Health, said in the release. “Our patient likelihood to recommend scores are 100, and we are exceeding all our quality targets. Our home health clinicians in partnership with our hospitalists have exceled in the ability to care for complex patients safely in their homes.”

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Another SC start-up is making good see more

    Compliments of the Post and Courier

    During a procedure with a young patient, Cephus Simmons noticed something wasn’t working as well as it could. Part of the child’s small intestine had slid into the large intestine, causing an obstruction that can be life threatening for small children.

    But the catheter used to keep the bladder flowing wasn’t staying firmly in place.

    “It became frustrating to me, and it was something that medically I knew wasn’t correct, and something that needed to be fixed,” said Simmons, a Ph.D. and radiology assistant at the Medical University of South Carolina.

    The catheter the MUSC team was using, called a Foley catheter, features a balloon to hold it in place internally. After the procedure, Simmons drew up his idea for a different kind of catheter that would have two balloons, one to be placed on the inside and one on the outside of the body. He founded SealCath in 2013.

    While Simmons says it solves the problems that were at hand during that procedure, the catheter he developed can be used for colonoscopies and more. It’s also made to work for both pediatric and adult patients.

    But it took several years after founding of the company for the catheter to become available on the market. Simmons worked on the effort from his home in Mount Pleasant in between his clinical time at MUSC, getting little sleep.

    The company quickly began to take off in 2018. Simmons was awarded a research grant that year from the National Institutes of Health

    The S.C. Research Authority, a tech accelerator program that receives state funding, also enrolled SealCath in its SC Launch program for startups in 2018. The program gives companies mentorship and capital in order to grow. 

    SealCath went to market in the summer of 2019. Then, Simmons secured a patent in Canada in 2020. 

    When COVID-19 shut hospitals’ doors to many patients, visitors and vendors, SealCath also had to shut down temporarily. Business picked back up by the end of 2020, and now Simmons plans to bring to market a silicon version of his catheter this fall — it’s available in latex for now, and some buyers are concerned about allergies to the material. 

    Innovations in the life sciences are some of the most promising in Charleston’s burgeoning technology industry.

    Health care technology, along with biotech and pharmaceuticals, make up two of the state’s top three startup industries, according to an annual analysis by BIP Capital. Still, in terms of the amount of outside funding coming in, South Carolina’s startups can’t match the size of Georgia’s, North Carolina’s, Florida’s or Tennessee’s in the Southeast. 

    SealCath is one of a number of successful spin-offs to come from researchers and clinicians at MUSC. 

    Simmons didn’t imagine becoming the CEO of a startup company when he decided to go into medicine. 

    “Innovation does the same thing as what I’ve been doing my whole career, which is helping patients,” he said. “If you find the right product that’s going to improve health care, then innovation is actually just as good or better than what I’ve been doing the whole time as far as taking care of my patients.”

    Simmons plans to retire from MUSC, which he now counts among his customers, this year and take his catheter on the road to market it to other hospitals. His long-term goal is to export the device to Canada. 

    Simmons graduated from Walterboro High School. He is married with four children. 

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Prisma aligns with Siemens Healthineers see more

    Compliments of Post and Courier

    Prisma Health is entering a 10-year partnership with German technology company Siemens to become more efficient and improve patient care, the companies announced June 22.

    Prisma staff members will work with technology experts from the Siemens Healthineers division to evaluate how the company uses technology to treat patients, including the use of artificial intelligence.

    Prisma Health, the state’s largest hospital system, needs to keep improving how it works as the challenges of health care, from rising costs to keeping a trained workforce, keep mounting, Prisma Health CEO Mark O’Halla said.

    “We have to get better — better outcomes and cheaper,” O’Halla said.

    One of the roles that technology can play is to make work more efficient for the staff, both through better systems and training, said Dave Pacitti, president for the Americas of Siemens Healthineers, the health care tech portion of the German engineering giant.

    That should bring more time for clinical staff to treat patients, he said. 

    No financial terms of the 10-year partnership were disclosed, but Pacitti said it is his company’s largest partnership with a health care provider.

    Artificial intelligence will be used to study how Prisma Health is treating patients by analyzing the collected data with no names of patients attached, O’Halla said. 

    AI also will be able to help care for individual patients, Pacitti said. One example: an AI system can work in the background as a doctor or other staff members examine computer images from a scan, looking to highlight areas on the image that that need more scrutiny.

    The deal will include adding more modern diagnostic equipment from Siemens and making sure that the systems are deployed around the state in the most efficient way possible, O’Halla said. 

    For Siemens, the deal will provide direct clinical feedback on how its systems work in medical offices.

    Prisma Health operates 18 hospitals, including the former Palmetto Health system in the Midlands. Headquartered in Greenville, it employs more than 30,000 staff members.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Medical data company relocating headquarters in the Upstate, creating 10 new jobs see more

     COLUMBIA, S.C. Sync.MD, a medical data company, today announced plans to establish operations in Anderson County, creating 10 new jobs.

    Founded in 2015, Sync.MD specializes in the mobile data storage of health and medical records. The company’s patented technology enables users to securely store complete and current health care records and update information on smartphones for seamless sharing of medical records with health care providers. Sync.MD helps solve the problem of connecting otherwise incompatible medical records systems, as well as meet the specific needs of veterans or those who require specialized care. Sync.MD’s innovative technology enables higher-quality coordination of care, which means better outcomes and reduced costs for patients. 

    Located in Anderson, South Carolina, Sync.MD’s new facility will increase the company’s capacity to meet growing demand.

    Operations are expected to be online by fall 2021. Individuals interested in joining the Sync.MD team should email or call (864) 260-1061 for additional information. 

     

    QUOTES

    "Sync.MD is excited to continue its growth with a relocation to Anderson County. We are incredibly grateful for the assistance of the South Carolina Department of Commerce and Anderson County officials throughout our site selection process, and we are looking forward to what we know will be a fruitful partnership going forward." -Sync.MD CEO Eugene Luskin 

    “We are thrilled to add Sync.MD to the South Carolina family. This announcement is great news for Anderson County, and we look forward to the great work this company will accomplish.” -Gov. Henry McMaster

    “It’s always exciting to see a company choose South Carolina as their new home. We celebrate Sync.MD’s decision to invest and create new jobs in Anderson County and look forward to watching them grow in the future.” -Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt

    "I am very excited for Sync.MD to establish operations in Anderson County. The jobs that are moving here are high-paying tech jobs, and more will be created in the future. When I first met with Sync.MD’s leadership years ago, I told them South Carolina has a great business environment, and that we would welcome the chance to help them grow. I am thrilled that Sync.MD will be providing services to our veterans and their customers around the world from right here in Anderson." -U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan

    “We are excited to welcome software company Sync.MD to Anderson County’s new soft-landing economic development space. Sync.MD exemplifies the type of innovative business we continually seek to attract to further diversify and support the local economy.” -Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn

    “Sync.MD landing in the Upstate represents areas where the Upstate is poised for growth — life sciences, technology and market entry into a landing pad space. We look forward to seeing this innovative digital health solutions provider grow in our region.” -Upstate SC Alliance President & CEO John Lummus

     

    FIVE FAST FACTS

    • Sync.MD is establishing operations in Anderson County.
    • The company is creating 10 new jobs.
    • Sync.MD is a medical data company.
    • Located in Anderson, S.C.
    • Individuals interested in joining the Sync.MD team should email or call (864) 260-1061 for additional information.
     

  • sam patrick posted an article
    EUA means help is on the way to millions worldwide as the first vaccine for COVID-19 is rolled out see more

    The Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine, clearing its use after a historic 10-month research sprint and a rapid review that culminated Thursday with the endorsement of an independent advisory committee.

    With the vaccine's authorization, millions of vulnerable U.S. residents could soon have a shot at protection from a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and sickened millions. Daily case counts and deaths have hit new highs in the weeks following Thanksgiving and more than 100,000 people are currently hospitalized.

    Initial supplies, however, are extremely limited, forcing public health officials to prioritize which groups should receive the vaccine first. Healthcare workers and nursing home residents, who have fallen ill and died from COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers, are expected to begin receiving the vaccine within days, as Pfizer began manufacturing while clinical trials were still underway.

    Some 2.9 million doses are expected to be available initially, with the U.S. holding some in reserve to ensure people receive the second of two doses that vaccination requires.

    "While not an FDA approval, today's emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine holds the promise to alter the course of this pandemic in the United States," said Peter Marks, director of the FDA division that reviews vaccines, in a statement.

    Authorization of a vaccine within a year of scientists identifying the new coronavirus is a scientific milestone that, at the pandemic's outset, looked unattainable.

    "In my wildest dreams, I thought it would be fast. But fast means, if it [typically] takes seven years, maybe you can get it down to a couple of years," said Anthony Fauci, in a Dec. 11 interview with the editor of JAMA. "Now it's our challenge to convince people that this wasn't rushed in a reckless way."

    Yet the FDA has been under immense pressure to speed an approval and, on Friday, the Trump administration reportedly told agency head Stephen Hahn to submit his resignation if Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine was not cleared by the end of the day. The vaccine was cleared by regulators in the U.K., Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico earlier this month.

    The emergency use authorization, a special type of approval used in public health crises, came one day after a panel of FDA advisers voted 17-4 to recommend use of the shot.

    Two of the four "no" votes came from committee members who wanted to recommend the vaccine only for people aged 18 or older, rather than include 16- and 17-year olds as the FDA had advocated. The FDA's final decision authorized its use for people as young as 16.

    The regulator, along with its advisers, was persuaded by a massive trial that enrolled 44,000 people and randomly assigned them to receive either Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine or a placebo.

    Trial results announced Nov. 18 showed the vaccine to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, easily surpassing the 50% threshold set by the FDA earlier this year. Vaccination was similarly protective in older adults and in individuals of different races or ethnicities, according to detailed data presented at Thursday's meeting.

    "The data are pretty clear cut so it's a very straightforward decision," said Philip Grant, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford University Medical Center.

    Importantly, Pfizer and BioNTech also proved their vaccine is safe, with no unexpected or serious adverse reactions observed in the study. Many participants did experience injection site pain, fever, headache and fatigue, generally mild or moderate in nature.

    While the companies first reported positive results from their Phase 3 study on Nov. 9, they waited 11 more days before submitting an application in order to collect at least two months' of safety follow-up on half of trial participants. Most side effects to vaccines emerge within 40 to 60 days, which motivated the FDA to set the two-month requirement.

    Four cases of Bell's palsy — temporary weakness or paralysis in one side of the face — were reported among trial volunteers who received the vaccine, three of which had resolved. FDA reviewers, however, noted the frequency was no greater than what would be expected in the general population.

    Regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere are also on now watch for signs of allergic reactions to vaccination among individuals with a history of severe allergies, after two people in the U.K. had reactions after receiving their first shot. The authorization from the FDA instructs medical personnel not to give the vaccine to people who have a history of severe allergic reaction to any of its ingredients.

    The emergency clearance for Pfizer and BioNTech's shot is expected to be followed quickly by one for a similar type of vaccine developed by Moderna. An advisory committee is scheduled to meet and vote on the company's application on Dec. 17.

    Study results showed Moderna's vaccine, which was developed in collaboration with U.S. government scientists, to be similarly effective against COVID-19.

    The shots' high efficacy could help convince skeptical portions of the public who have indicated in polls they'd be cautious or unlikely to get a vaccine.

    "There will be less vaccine hesitancy in March than there will be in January, and then a lot less in May than in March," said Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and co-leader of a vaccine trial network.

    It's still unclear, however, whether either vaccine can protect against infection and transmission, as well as disease. Data from Pfizer could come soon, however, Kathrin Jansen, the company's head of vaccine research and development, told the FDA's advisers Thursday.

    Both companies have worked feverishly to scale up manufacturing in preparation for an approval, but both will only have limited supplies to offer the U.S. and other countries in which their vaccines are approved.

    Pfizer and BioNTech, which make their vaccine at sites in Michigan and in Puurs, Belgium, expect to make 50 million doses by the end of 2020, only some of which is reserved for use in the U.S. Production should ramp up considerably in 2021, when the two companies expect to manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses.

    Moderna has said it can produce 20 million doses for the U.S. this month, and another 85 million to 100 million by the end of March.

    The U.S. initially preordered 100 million doses of each vaccine, an amount that would cover less than a third of the U.S. population. According to The New York Times, the U.S. passed up its chance to order more doses from Pfizer under an option it had negotiated, although officials dispute the Times' account.

    On Friday, Moderna announced the U.S. had agreed to purchase another 100 million doses for delivery in the second quarter of 2021. The U.S. also appears to be counting on approvals for several vaccines still in testing by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Deals with the three companies reserve some 500 million doses for the U.S.

    Moncef Slaoui, the scientific leader of the U.S.'s "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine program, recently predicted 100 million U.S. residents will get a vaccine by the end of February — an ambitious target even if two shots are approved.

    Further complicating roll-out plans are the temperature requirements for Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, which must be shipped and stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Pfizer built shipping containers that will use dry ice to keep doses cold, and is handling distribution on its own.

    Dry ice has been in short supply this year, requiring logistics companies to beef up production to meet the demand of transporting vaccines.

    Moderna's vaccine must also be kept cold, but at a more moderate minus 20 degrees Celsius.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    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.

    Read the entire story here...