Program aims to provide more access to rural, underserved areas see more
Improving health care access and rural and underserved populations across South Carolina is a priority of MUSC Health. A new program called Healthy Me – Healthy SC launched in 2019 to address these issues and has already succeeded in bringing health care services to more South Carolinians.
Healthy Me – Healthy SC is now planning to extend its reach even further. On this episode of Advance with MUSC Health, Kapri Kreps Rhodes and David Sudduth, director and executive director of Healthy Me – Healthy SC, join the show to discuss these new developments and share a bit more about this innovative program.
MUSC's expansion plans bode well for South Carolinians see more
The Medical University of South Carolina is expanding throughout the state, and WIS-TV sits down with MUSC President David Cole and MUSC Health CEO Pat Cawley sit down to share details on plans and the organizational vision with news anchor Judy Gatson. Enjoy the interview here.
MUSC Innovation Week returns to in-person format see more
The fifth annual Innovation Week at the Medical University of South Carolina will kick off on April 25 and with it comes the return of the live version of the event. Hosted by the Office of Innovation, the event is designed as a week-long celebration of MUSC's culture of innovation meant to inspire and empower the MUSC community to innovate.
“Innovation Week is a visible and tangible representation of the value that MUSC places on innovation,” said Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at MUSC. “It's meant as both a celebration of our accomplishments and as a source of inspiration of our future potential.”
Festivities will begin on Monday, April 25, at the Urban Farm. There, the first 50 attendees can pick up some Innovation Week gear and a ticket for a King of Pops treat or bag of kettle corn that will be offered during the Innovation on the Greenway event scheduled for the next day.
Afterward, the week will continue with back-to-back sessions in the Bioengineering Building, Room 112, and will include opening remarks from MUSC leadership as well as awards and recognition for participating students and faculty members.
Winding up the day, students will be pitching their ideas for research grants in a virtual session that is open to all at 2 p.m.
A staple of Innovation Week, the Charleston poster session will be held on Tuesday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on the Greenway, where visitors will review ideas submitted by MUSC employees and students and select which should be evaluated at the Shark Tank event on Thursday, April 28.
In addition to the Charleston poster session, for the first time, MUSC’s Regional Health Network sites will host their own poster sessions. Florence and Marion will do a combined event in Florence on April 25. Lancaster and Chester will host theirs in Lancaster on April 27.
“It's important to see MUSC as a system and for us to be inclusive when working to build a culture that expands off of the peninsula,” said Goodwin. “I can't wait to see the ideas and projects pitched by the Florence, Marion, Lancaster and Chester teams.”
An MUSC NetID is needed to view and vote, and voting closes at 5 p.m.
While Lancaster and Florence host their poster sessions on Wednesday, an interactive discussion on artificial intelligence in biomedical equipment will be held in the Drug Discovery Building from 1-2 p.m.
For those looking to decompress, Thursday will offer the “Stress Less Bash,” at the Urban Farm, where all faculty, staff and students can drop by to enjoy live music, games, stress-relieving activities, refreshments and more.
Thursday will also mark the return of the live hosting of Shark Tank. This fun-filled annual event features teams that have been chosen as finalists pitching their ideas to a panel of MUSC’s executive leaders for an opportunity to win bragging rights and funding to support the development or scaling of their concepts. The finalists are selected from the submissions to the Innovation Week poster session. After going virtual last year, the event – and the mascot – will be in the Storm Eye Auditorium from 2-4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Regional Health Network sites will be hosting their own Shark Tank events for the first time as well. Florence and Marion will host a combined event at the Florence Floyd Conference Center, from 10 a.m.-noon., on April 27. Lancaster and Chester will also combine for their own session at the Lancaster Medical Theatre, from 2-4 p.m., on April 27.
The week will conclude on Friday with a virtual keynote address by Jeff Borden, chief academic officer of D2L, a global software company that created the online learning platform Brightspace. Attendees will gain a better understanding of how to make tomorrow’s learning start today as we build “Education 3.0” and create an atmosphere for better learning year after year.
“I believe the week and its events are important demonstrations of MUSC's commitment to building a culture of innovation,” said Goodwin. “The poster session is a way for our MUSC family to share their ideas and existing work on solving pain points in a manner that garners attention by colleagues and leaders. Shark Tank is a fun way to show that MUSC’s most senior leaders are seriously committed to considering and supporting ideas being brought forth by those that work here.”
Minimally invasive ‘Barostim’ device could improve quality of life for heart failure patients see more
Two doctors at MUSC Health are the first at an academic medical center and only the second in the world to use a new, minimally invasive procedure to implant a heart failure treatment device.
Both doctors are women in heavily male-dominated specialties. Vascular surgeon Jean Marie Ruddy, M.D., is principal investigator at the MUSC site for the trial of this new implantation method for Barostim. Cardiac electrophysiologist Anne Kroman, D.O., Ph.D., is site co-principal investigator of the BATwire percutaneous implant study, using the Barostim Neo System.
Barostim won breakthrough device approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 following successful trials led by MUSC Health cardiologist Michael Zile, M.D. The device uses electrical impulses to stimulate the nerve that regulates blood pressure, inducing the blood vessels to relax.
Although the device can’t reverse heart failure, it can improve patients’ quality of life, said MUSC Cardiologist Ryan Tedford, M.D., section chief of heart failure, medical director of cardiac transplantation and professor in the College of Medicine.
His patient became the first at MUSC Health to undergo the new method of implantation last week and is doing well.
The original method of implantation required a vascular surgeon to make an incision in the patient’s neck to insert the electrode. But in a “feat of engineering,” the new method being tested would enable the device to be implanted through a wire using ultrasound guidance, Ruddy said.
“This is what we call a ‘first-in-man study.” It’s a new way to deliver the same technology but to save the patient from an incision in the side of the neck,” she explained.
“There are millions of patients living with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in the U.S. who may be able to benefit from Barostim. This new implantation method could eventually be used for most patients who may benefit from Barostim and represents a step forward in the evolution of the therapy to be even more simple to implant,” explained a spokesperson with CVRx, the company that created Barostim.
For more information about the procedure, check out this MUSC Catalyst News Story.
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,000 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy – and trains more than 850 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $327.6 million in research funds in fiscal year 2021, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $220 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and five additional hospital locations in development; more than 350 telehealth sites, with connectivity to patients’ homes; and nearly 750 care locations situated in all 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 totaling $4.4 billion. The nearly 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers, scientists, students, affiliates and care team members who deliver and support groundbreaking education, research, and patient care.
CVRx is focused on the development and commercialization of Barostim™, the first medical technology approved by FDA that uses neuromodulation to improve the symptoms of patients with heart failure. Barostim is an implantable device that delivers electrical pulses to baroreceptors located in the wall of the carotid artery. Baroreceptors activate the body’s baroreflex, which in turn triggers an autonomic response to the heart. The therapy is designed to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system and thereby reduce the symptoms of heart failure. Barostim received the FDA Breakthrough Device designation and is FDA-approved for use in heart failure patients in the U.S. It has also received the CE Mark for heart failure and resistant hypertension in the European Economic Area. To learn more about Barostim, visit the company’s website.
MUSC ranked #30 among public institutions see more
The Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine has been ranked No. 56 in Best Medical Schools: Research by U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey. The school tied with Georgetown University.
When ranked solely among other public institutions, MUSC came in at No. 30.
The U.S. News research rankings are based on federal expenditures, survey assessments completed by deans and senior faculty members at peer institutions, and entering class data, MUSC said. The magazine surveyed 192 accredited medical and osteopathic schools in the U.S. for this year’s rankings.
“This ranking is truly a testament to the dedication of our faculty, their leadership and their desire to make discoveries that can change the lives of patients,” said Lisa Saladin, MUSC executive vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. “Research is at the core of what we do as an academic health sciences center, and we believe it is an important component of medical education. Our faculty, students, trainees and staff are inspired to reach for the impossible every day, which is vitally important in a time where we’re more committed than ever to improving the health of all.”
MUSC was additionally recognized by U.S. News & World Report as nationally ranked in several adult specialties, including No. 17 in gynecology, No. 14 in ear, nose and throat and No. 39 in cancer. The institution also was ranked No. 6 in most graduates practicing in medically underserved areas.
In the most recent Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll, MUSC also ranked in pediatric specialties, including No. 12 in cardiology and heart surgery, No. 30 in pediatric nephrology, No. 42 in pediatric gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery and No. 44 in cancer.
MUSC exploring a promising new approach to treating Alzheimer’s see more
Alzheimer’s disease is an enormous problem that, with an aging population, will only become bigger. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and 1 in 3 seniors will die of it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease, currently estimated at $355 billion, will rise to $1.1 trillion.
Could one of the causes of such a huge and costly problem be traced back to the cells that line the body’s tiniest blood vessels?
A new study published by a Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) research team in Molecular Therapy suggests that the answer is yes. The team, led by Hongkuan Fan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, found fewer of these cells, known as pericytes, in the brains of people who died of Alzheimer’s disease. They also found higher levels of Fli-1, a protein most often found in blood cells and thought to govern their development.
When the team blocked, or inhibited, the action of Fli-1 in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, the memory of the mice improved. Blocking the protein also stopped immune cells from leaking into the brain and causing the inflammation that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Blocking Fli-1 could be a promising new approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Click to continue enjoying the complete article.
Long-standing partnership between Clemson University and MUSC paying off see more
South Carolina is strengthening its position as a hub for high-impact biomedical research with a new multi-million-dollar project that undergirds the long-standing partnership between Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and loops in crucial support from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers will study temporomandibular joint (TMJ) function, how the TMJ functions in different craniofacial developmental disorders that seem to put the joint at risk for degeneration and how the joint responds to surgical correction of these disorders, researchers said.
The TMJ makes it possible to move the lower jaw to eat and talk. Understanding the stresses on the TMJ before temporomandibular joint disease (TMD) occurs will unlock the mechanisms that put certain individuals at risk for TMD.
The focus of the research aligns with the recommendations made by an ad hoc committee on temporomandibular disorders that was formed under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division.
Four of the researchers involved in the new project are connected to the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program. As part of the program, Clemson bioengineering faculty and students are based at MUSC’s Charleston campus where they collaborate closely with MUSC researchers and clinicians.
The new project, funded by a $3.18-million U01 grant from NIDCR, has two principal investigators. Hai Yao, serves as the Ernest R. Norville Endowed Chair and professor of bioengineering at Clemson, professor of oral health sciences at MUSC, the associate department chair for the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program and a member of the national temporomandibular disorder ad hoc committee. Janice Lee is the clinical director of the NIDCR and chief of the Craniofacial Anomalies and Regeneration Section within the NIH intramural research program.
Yao said the project is possible only because of the synergy and complementary strengths of Clemson, MUSC and NIDCR.
“Clemson and MUSC work together so seamlessly it’s as if we are one university, and we both collaborate closely with NIDCR,” he said. “This project is the latest example of how these strategic partnerships are making South Carolina a hub of biomedical research that is recognized globally. Through these partnerships, we are well positioned to address urgent healthcare needs identified by the NIDCR and the National Academy of Medicine.”
Lee said the researchers are uniquely positioned for success.
“The U01 is an extremely competitive grant that requires intra- and extra- mural collaboration utilizing the world-renown resources at the NIH Clinical Center,” Lee said. “It is extra special as this is a first for NIDCR intramural as well. Temporomandibular joint disorders are debilitating conditions, and I am thrilled to be working with Hai Yao and his team to truly move the research forward. His team brings outstanding bioengineering technology to examine craniofacial musculoskeletal function to the Clinical Center; our discoveries will be translated and, ideally, will initiate first-in-human therapies for TMD at the NIH.”
Lee continued: “NIDCR is committed to working with world-class partners such as Clemson and MUSC to advance translational research into temporomandibular disorders. This project will help improve understanding of these disorders, thereby improving outcomes for patients.”
This is particularly important to Lee as she is the oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will be providing the surgical treatments and is acutely aware of the impact that surgery can have on TMD, she said.
Özlem Yilmaz, chair of the Department of Oral Health Sciences at MUSC, said the new project presents an important venue to help patients debilitated with TMJ disorders and underpins South Carolina’s leading position in temporomandibular disorders research.
“New measurement tools and computational models will be tested on patients at the NIH Dental Clinic,” Yilmaz said. “These novel technologies, stemming from more than a decade of teamwork bringing together bioengineers, oral surgeons, and oral biologists at MUSC and Clemson, will push the boundary of the current temporomandibular disorders research.”
Sarandeep Huja, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at MUSC, said the new project further solidifies MUSC’s partnership with Clemson and NIDCR.
“This partnership will help us innovate the future of oral health and wellness,” Huja said. “We will not only be advancing knowledge of temporomandibular disorders but also expanding knowledge for the next generation of oral health providers and researchers. As a practicing clinician and orthodontist, I frequently encounter patients with temporomandibular disorders, in the very type of patients that will be recruited in this study. It is critical we find evidence based treatments for these patients.”
The vice presidents of research at Clemson and MUSC are crucial to the institutions’ partnership, Yao said. Tanju Karanfil is vice president of research at Clemson, and Lori L. McMahon is vice president for research at MUSC.
“We look forward to solidifying the strong foundation that Clemson and MUSC have built,” Karanfil and McMahon said in a joint statement. “These large, high-impact projects are advancing knowledge and creating a new generation of talent, while strengthening the state’s national and international reputation for biomedical research and education.”
Researchers are calling their project “Assessment of Temporomandibular Joint Morphology, Mechanics, and Mechanobiology in Class II and III Target and Surgical Phenotypes.”
Part of what makes the project unique is the collaboration that maximizes the expertise of the investigators.
“Dr. Lee and her craniofacial team at NIDCR will recruit the large number of patients that will be required for the research, characterize the patients, and support their travel and treatment costs,” Yao said.
Clemson and MUSC will perform analysis of temporomandibular joint biomechanics and mechanobiology and put that information into context to better understand patients’ health status and the potential for future problems
Martine LaBerge, chair of Department of Bioengineering at Clemson, said the U01 grant that funds the new project is the first of its kind at Clemson.
“This grant is a testament to the strength of the biomedical research enterprise that Clemson and MUSC are building in partnership with federal collaborators, especially the National Institutes of Health,” she said. “Dr. Yao’s leadership has been crucial to the partnership’s success, and it remains in good hands with him at the helm.”
The project is the latest major NIH grant led by Yao. He is also principal investigator on South Carolina Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health (SC TRIMH), a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence that was founded with an $11-million NIH grant in 2018. Researchers associated with the center have accounted for $8 million in NIDCR awards over the past year.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the success underscores the high quality of research that has come out of interdisciplinary partnerships such as the Clemson-MUSC Bioengineering Program.
“Working together in collaboration with federal partners is elevating South Carolina’s position as a place for top-tier biomedical research and predoctoral and postdoctoral education,” he said. “Dr. Yao and his team have built a high-impact program and are continuing to climb. I offer them my whole-hearted congratulations.”
How a leading US medical university is working with industry to drive innovation for life science businesses in Charleston, SCInnovation and life sciences are growing rapidly in South Carolina see more
Compliments of Investment Monitor
Investment Monitor spoke to Jesse Goodwin, PhD, chief innovation officer at the Medical University of South Carolina, to find out how the institution is collaborating with industry partners to grow within, and alongside, the life science sector in Charleston, SC.
The Charleston region has a lot to offer life science companies, including access to talent at the oldest medical school in the South. Located in downtown Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) was founded in 1824 and has maintained a dedication to serving the state through education, research and patient care from the very beginning. However, there is a fourth pillar that makes MUSC a nationally recognised institution and a key partner within Charleston’s life sciences ecosystem – and that is innovation.
Bravery, generosity mark efforts to beat rare disease see more
When Cortney Gensemer visited her professor during office hours to discuss her Ph.D. dissertation, she had no idea she would be able to study her own disease.
Gensemer, a doctoral candidate at the Medical University of South Carolina, first started noticing her symptoms at age 14, when she was forced to sit out the first year of girls varsity lacrosse at her high school in Pennsylvania. She endured numerous joint dislocations and soft tissue tears in both hips before she was diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that affects joint and neck movement, at age 19.
Prior to her diagnosis and over a year into Division II college lacrosse at West Chester University, she thought her constant injuries meant she just wasn’t as tough as the other athletes on the field.
“None of the physical therapists or athletic trainers I was seeing were familiar with EDS,” Gensemer said. ”There was no one saying, ‘This is something bigger.’ ”
Now, at age 25, she’s in the last year of her doctoral program at MUSC and recovering from her eighth surgery since being diagnosed.
Aside from the gray and blue brace she wore after her most recent surgery to keep the joints in her neck in place, she appeared in good health while working with school lab partners at the end of February.
A tattoo of the word “resilience” on her left forearm serves as a reminder to push through moments of severe pain. She calls it her EDS tattoo.
“It pushes me to want to work hard because I’m literally living with what I’m researching,” Gensemer said. “I’m going to be in awful chronic pain whether I’m sitting on the couch or in the lab.”
Now, MUSC is on the brink of opening the country’s first Ehlers-Danlos syndrome institute for research, clinical care and education on the disease.
Symptoms of the hereditary disease range from frequent joint dislocations, joints that extend beyond the normal range, and loose ligaments in the neck and spine.
EDS affects roughly 1 in 3,000 people worldwide and so far has 14 different variations. The hypermobile variant is known to be the most common. However, researchers say the real number could include many more since the disease is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Currently there is no cure for EDS.
Gensemer is one of the only reasons EDS is being studied at MUSC. Her studies are housed in the Norris Lab, where her professor, Dr. Russell Norris, leads her and a team of 13 researchers and volunteers, some of whom also have EDS.
She and the team have so far identified the first strong candidate gene for hypermobile EDS, which could lead to new ways to diagnose patients earlier and more definitively.
“I didn’t realize how powerful my own story could be,” Gensemer said. “An EDS Institute is something that patients like me have dreamed about our entire lives.”
Living with EDS
It can be years before a patient actually confirms they have EDS. And different variants of the disease show up with different symptoms.
Gensemer was diagnosed within the first five years of exhibiting symptoms, while the average EDS patient waits 10 to 14 years to be properly diagnosed.
“Hypermobile EDS is really difficult to diagnose because there isn’t a molecular or genetic diagnostic test for it,” Gensemer said. “Identifying this new gene is going to ensure patients aren’t passed around from doctor to doctor or living with vague symptoms for years without knowing what connects them.”
For most EDS patients, undergoing numerous surgical procedures to reduce chronic pain is a necessity and often the best option for long-lasting relief.
Gensemer’s most recent surgery addressed loose ligaments in her neck that couldn’t hold her spine in place. Some doctors say this movement between the neck and head resembles the movement of a bobblehead, causing severe neck pain, sensitivity to light and lingering headaches.
To help, doctors fused the vertebrae of her spine together with titanium plates and screws to properly support her head, relieve lingering pain and prevent further symptoms.
Gensemer said that before she could undergo surgery, doctors needed to perform an upright MRI to determine what parts of her neck and spine needed support.
This specific MRI helps to diagnose certain spinal and neck complications of EDS that don’t show up on an MRI scan in the traditional position.
However, the nearest upright machine is in Greenville, a nearly four-hour drive. A ride that length can be incredibly painful and in some cases near impossible for people with EDS.
That was the case for Sydney Severance, a 16-year-old from Daniel Island, who was diagnosed with EDS in 2020 after months of shuffling back and forth to doctor appointments.
Severance’s symptoms left her wheelchair bound, constantly vomiting and extremely sensitive to light. At MUSC, neurological and spinal specialist Dr. Sunil Patel suggested she may be suffering from craniocervical instability, a type of loose ligament condition in EDS that results in injury to the nervous system.
Finally, she had found a physician who could tell her what was causing her so much pain. But in order to officially diagnose Severance she would need to have an upright MRI scan done, and she wasn’t able to make the drive. Luckily, a family friend of the Severance’s flew them to Greenville privately for the MRI, where her diagnosis was confirmed.
“It was still excruciating and very difficult to be moved around and have a long day of travel, even though my situation was a lot better than some patients,” Severance said.
While Severance agrees that luck was on her side, many others like her who have to drive may turn a four-hour drive into a multiple day trip.
She recalled talking with an EDS patient who suffered from seizures due to the same loose ligament problem as Severance. The other patient had at least 18 seizures during the trip for their MRI scan.
To Severance, the path to diagnosis for patients with this disease is much longer than the drive to Greenville. In fact, some patients go so long without knowing their affliction that it causes severe psychological trauma and confusion regarding the pain they are experiencing.
So after undergoing her first successful surgery for EDS in 2020, Severance founded Operation Upright, a campaign to raise over $1 million to bring an upright MRI machine to Charleston.
Her campaign aims to lessen the average time for diagnosis and give other EDS patients like her a chance at early detection. So far it’s raised over $800,000 out of the $1.2 million goal, including a recent anonymous donation of $600,000.
“I was able to get a diagnosis much faster than most people,” Severance said. “I think having an upright MRI machine in Charleston would help a lot of other people reach diagnosis quickly.”
Gensemer’s research and Severance’s fundraising position them as two of the strongest forces advocating for EDS in the state, fighting for more information and better treatment options for patients across the country and especially within the Lowcountry.
Gensemer also developed an EDS patient registry, collecting DNA information from over 3,000 patients nationwide for further genetic research. So far, nearly 80 percent of patients in the registry inherited the disease from a family member.
According to Norris, the MUSC professor who leads the lab Gensemer works in, the gene they discovered could help doctors decide on the best treatments and physical therapies for patients, and possibly reduce the amount of surgeries a patient undergoes in a lifetime.
Now they are testing the theory with animals, transferring the identified gene in humans to mice in their lab in hopes of being able to expand their studies on the disease.
“The mice are hypermobile and have changes in connective tissue,” Gensemer said as she carefully held one of the lab mice by the tail. “Now we can use that mouse to expand our studies.”
While both Gensemer and Severance are currently recovering from surgeries due to complications with EDS, they both say the work they are doing motivates them to keep going.
“Fundraising for this upright MRI really keeps me positive because I’m able to turn what has made my life a lot more difficult into something a little more positive,” Severance said.
So far, complications from EDS have resulted in Severance relearning to walk at least twice since being diagnosed, and her most recent surgery left her in the hospital for 16 days.
“She’s incredibly positive,” said her mother, Ashley Severance. “Even as she was learning how to walk again, she considered herself lucky.”
MUSC President David Cole speaks out see more
Author Hans Christian Andersen wrote many short stories – adapted parables (think “The Little Mermaid”) that often stand the test of time in terms of the messages they are meant to convey. One such story involved an emperor, his vanity and an obsession with new fancy clothes that ultimately led to his being hoodwinked into ignoring the most obvious of truths: His new clothes were not clothes at all, and he was, in fact, naked.
Today, we tend to use the expression “the emperor has no clothes” when many people believe something that is not true, and others are too often afraid to criticize or be seen as going against popular opinion. This is not an uncommon response as we try to get on with our daily lives – call it human nature. Well, respectfully, I’m going to push back against that human tendency here and say that in the state of South Carolina, “the emperor has no health care.”
Take, for instance, some recent health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranking infant mortality in developing countries. The United States is tied for last place out of 24 industrialized nations. From there, if we look only at the U.S., we see that South Carolina sits in the bottom quartile, meaning we have rates of infant mortality that are beyond unacceptable. In data available through the Department of Health and Environmental Control and other sources, including research teams here at MUSC, we quickly understand that when it comes to chronic diseases, South Carolina continues to rank at the bottom of the scale. Opioid deaths are on the rise, too. These are just a few of many examples. Health care access, delivery and outcomes are far from optimal in South Carolina, as the evidence and data consistently tell us.
I don’t have to tell you that South Carolina and its citizens, myself included, are a very proud bunch. We have a lot of great things going for us all over the state, and as evidenced by our economic growth, influx of new citizens and great quality of life that’s not a surprise. But I will share with you a fact that we never discuss – health, or lack thereof, is the great equalizer. If we do not come together to address the chronic and increasing health care issues that hold us back as individuals and communities, we will never be able to reach our full potential.
In recent months I’ve been receiving feedback, questions and just to state it candidly, some concerns, from external stakeholders about MUSC’s strategic moves related to the subject of partnership and our physical presence around the state. Typically, they want to know why MUSC is “trying to take over the world,” or why we don’t just “stay where you belong in the Lowcountry.”
I struggle with this feedback for three reasons: One, their statements don’t account for our statewide mission and charge from the legislature – we are the Medical University of South Carolina, not the Medical University of Charleston. Two, they operate under the false premise that unbridled competition, rather than partnership, is the only path forward. And three, they assume that all is well with health care across the state of South Carolina, and, therefore, any change to the status quo could only be detrimental, and statewide approaches to longstanding issues aren’t needed. That last reason, in my mind, is the equivalent to the emperor wearing no clothes.
For MUSC, more of the same is not acceptable. We’re innovators, collaborators and fellow humans, yes, but ultimately, we’ve also been charged with taking on this hard, and at times, seemingly insurmountable set of health problems that plague us – yet we are willing to accept this challenge. But to be clear, MUSC cannot solve these many issues alone; we require partnership, community and a willingness for individuals and entities to look beyond their own backyards. The key to moving the earlier stats in a positive direction and maintaining them in a place that we can all be proud of requires different thinking.
This starts with a systematic, strategic approach to partnership and presence across the state – acknowledging the basic truth that best care is local as a cornerstone of what we seek to do. We need to enable and strengthen access to high-quality care as close to home as possible. Why? Because enabling other providers and systems increases the quality and access of available health care while enabling the right care to actually happen at the right place and time. Because we know that being a catalyst for transformative and translational research around the state spurs necessary progress. Because we know that there are not enough training and educational opportunities in our state – a fact that has only become more evident by all things COVID.
So, where are we beginning to have impact?
Our work and leadership via the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance and the South Carolina Stroke System of Care are excellent examples to date. Today, you can present at any hospital emergency room anywhere across the state, and that ER physician and care team will have access to a stroke expert at one of five comprehensive stroke centers in South Carolina, which includes MUSC. This saves time and brain, leading to much better and different outcomes for thousands of South Carolinians. Further, as a National Center for Telehealth Excellence (one of only two nationwide), we’re connecting with smaller, rural, underserved and community health centers and hospitals so that we can deliver on the best care is closest to home concept for patients, yet ensure better outcomes and support for our health care colleagues across the state.
Another example involves the growth in clinical rotations for students across multiple MUSC colleges as a result of our acquisitions in the Florence and Lancaster regions of the state. We’re also working on graduate medical education (GME) consortiums with health care affiliates and colleagues to keep more physicians training and then, ultimately, staying to practice in South Carolina.
And, briefly, I’m particularly excited about how we are growing our community and underserved populations outreach, from our work with Healthy Me – Healthy SC to our leadership and crucial lessons learned during our statewide rollout of COVID-19 testing and vaccination.
Here are some more facts to consider:
- MUSC serves a critical role for South Carolina as the only health system able to provide the highest level of specialized, complex care and expertise, meaning we have the broadest range of specialties in South Carolina, with more than 15 offered exclusively at MUSC. Because of the focus on specialized care, MUSC sees patients from every county in South Carolina and every state in the nation.
- MUSC provides more than 50% of the state’s GME, making the institution the largest GME provider in South Carolina, with a total of 850+ positions across 77 specialties. Approximately 75% of physicians who complete medical school/GME in South Carolina remain in the state to practice.
- MUSC is the only health care system in the state that has a $328 million translational and basic science research enterprise capable of defining state-of-the-art care.
- MUSC has developed productive health care system partners or clinical affiliates in all 46 counties in South Carolina because providers, hospitals and health systems across the state are looking for partnerships that deliver the highest-quality, comprehensive care closest to their patients’ homes.
- Partnering to increase clinical- and outcomes-research capabilities elevates the level of care available and the quality of care provided in the local communities.
- Approximately 11% of South Carolinians requiring hospitalization (57,938 people) leave South Carolina for care. By partnering locally, we accomplish what is most appropriate, which is providing health care in South Carolina for South Carolinians.
- Rural hospitals in South Carolina are under significant financial pressure, with some facing closure, worsening the challenge of health care access/disparities. MUSC is investing and innovating in numerous smaller and rural South Carolina hospitals through partnership or presence, providing underrepresented minority and rural populations with better access to the highest level of patient care.
Given who we are – our mission, our momentum, the fact that we are blessed with so many talented providers, researchers, faculty, staff and students who work daily to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives – contrasted with the current state of health affairs in our South Carolina, my response to those who have concerns is “if not MUSC, then who?”
Over 500 registered leaders in Charleston celebrate growth, convey recognition on four top honorees see more
To resounding applause from a record gathering from 6 countries, 26 states and virtually every county in South Carolina, more than 500 life sciences leaders at SCBIO 2022 in Charleston saluted four of their own – three individuals and one organization – for profound positive impact and exceptional contributions to the advancement of South Carolina’s life sciences industry, and the health and advancement of the state.
Attendees at the sold-out conference, delivered both live and virtually, also learned that South Carolina’s life sciences industry impact has more than doubled since 2016 – to $25.7 billion annually – and its core employment has surged more than 42% in that period despite the pandemic-induced recession of 2020.
Recipients of the Life Sciences Industry’s PINNACLE awards were the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as Life Sciences Organization of the Year; Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina state epidemiologist from SC DHEC, as Individual Contributor of the Year; Dr. Martine LaBerge of Clemson University as Life Sciences Hall of Fame recipient; and Ashley Daugherty of Nephron Pharmaceuticals as Rising Star recipient.
Clemson University’s Dr. Martine LaBerge, chair of the Clemson Department of Bioengineering, was presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award for her personal championing of the life sciences industry, which today has 1,033 firms directly involved and over 87,000 professionals employed in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental, and agricultural biotechnology products. Clemson University is a Mission Partner of SCBIO and has been highly instrumental in helping the rapid growth of life sciences in the Palmetto State. LaBerge, who joined Clemson in 1990, is the Hall of Fame’s third member, joining former South Carolina Secretary of State Bobby Hitt and Harris Pastides, who was University of South Carolina president from 2008-2019 and recently returned as interim president.
LaBerge received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Montreal in Quebec and did postdoctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Ontario before joining Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990, where she rose through the ranks, became interim department chair in 2002. Deservedly credited with advancing bioengineering technology and creating interdisciplinary partnerships of scholars, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders to foster innovation, she has helped Clemson establish and strengthen strategic partnerships with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. She also has played a central role in establishing new bioengineering facilities, including the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus (CUBEInC) in Greenville.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Organizational Contribution to the industry was MUSC Health. A Mission Partner of SCBIO, MUSC was saluted for its research, patient care and innovation in the advancement of life sciences and for its contributions during the worst of the COVID pandemic. The MUSC team was honored for its thought leadership, its educational focus in teaching future healthcare providers, its testing and vaccination campaigns to help beat back the pandemic. Accepting the award for MUSC were Dr. Pat Cawley, CEO of MUSC Health and vice president for health affairs of the Medical University of South Carolina; Dr. David Cole, President of MUSC; and Ms. Caroline Brown, Chief External Affairs Officer for MUSC.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Individual Contribution to the industry was Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist and Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control for SC DHEC. Dr. Bell has worked in public health for over 28 years as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the Viral Special Pathogens Branch and as an EIS field officer. She has served in several positions with SC Department of Health and Environmental Control where, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a lead medical advisor in South Carolina providing guidance to help control disease spread for health care
providers, elected officials, businesses, and the public.
Dr. Ashley Daugherty serves as Chief Scientific Officer for Nephron Pharmaceuticals, a rapidly growing West-Columbia based pharmaceutical organization. Dr. Daugherty joined Nephron in 2014 as a Chemist and has rapidly risen through the ranks, spending time in analytical services and product development before assuming her current role in 2019. She holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of South Carolina and her Ph.D. from Emory University in Biomolecular Chemistry. She was honored with the inaugural Rising Star Award for her contributions to product development, advancement of intellectual property initiatives, and her strong and steady leadership during the unprecedented times of the pandemic as Nephron ramped up production, added production lines, and debuted new products and services to meet critical demands of the state and country.
The four honorees were celebrated by a record 500+ registrants who filled Charleston’s Gaillard Center, with attendees including scores of top industry chief executives, leaders in government and higher education, biotechnology and pharma executives, clinicians and researchers, and industry supporters from across America.
SCBIO is South Carolina’s investor-driven economic development organization exclusively focused on building, advancing, and growing the life sciences industry in the state.
As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups whose members are leading the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial, and environmental products that transform how we heal, fuel and feed the world.
SC Life Sciences Conference to Feature BIO Global Executive Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath Among Speakers at SCBIO 2021SCBIO 2021 to feature top national speakers on SC Life Sciences Feb. 16-17 see more
The Power of Us Conference features virtual format with top speakers, virtual partnering sessions, industry awards and virtual exhibit hall; CEOs and top industry leaders from 30+ states and countries expected for strategic partnership development, industry insights.
SOUTH CAROLINA – January 11, 2021 – With the biggest story of 2020 – the global COVID-19 pandemic – serving as the backdrop, the biggest life sciences conference in Palmetto State history will convene virtually February 16-17 to address how South Carolina and America will once again achieve health and prosperity, South Carolina life sciences industry officials announced today.
Themed “The Power of Us,” the 2-day SCBIO 2021 event will feature national speaker sessions on The Power of Innovation, The Power of Partnership, and The Power of People – each a fundamental force which drives the state’s surging $12 billion industry that is a key contributor to South Carolina’s expanding knowledge economy.
Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath is the first announced featured speaker for the 2-day conference, addressing the virtual gathering about the critical importance of The Power of People, and how diversity, equality and inclusion are essential ingredients to true collaboration and discovery – as has been borne out during development of COVID-19 vaccines.
A medical doctor and molecular immunologist by training, Dr. McMurry-Heath was named CEO of BIO in 2020 after time with Johnson & Johnson where she served as Global Head of Evidence Generation for Medical Device Companies and then Vice President of Global External Innovation and Global Leader for Regulatory Sciences. She was also instrumental in expansion of J&J’s incubator, JLabs, to Washington, DC; is the founding director of the Aspen Institute’s Health, Biomedical Science, and Society Policy Program; and received her MD/PhD from Duke’s Medical Scientist Training Program, becoming the first African American to graduate from the prestigious program. She also spent 12 years working at the research bench before taking policy and leadership roles in government and industry.
Dr. McMurry-Heath will be joined by more than a dozen additional presenters and honorees at SCBIO 2021 – the annual conference which annually brings together leaders and executives from life sciences organizations across the nation to South Carolina. In deference to the pandemic, all events are being conducted safely in a virtual format, organizers revealed.
The conference will also feature a virtual exhibit hall showcasing scores of life sciences industry businesses, institutions of higher learning and essential support industry partners from across the country, as well as presentation of the prestigious Pinnacle Awards by South Carolina Life Sciences to the outstanding 2020 Organization of the Year and Individual of the Year. SCBIO CEO Sam Konduros will deliver the highly anticipated “State of South Carolina’s Life Sciences Industry” address, while hundreds of virtual attendees are expected to take advantage of meetings and connection sessions through the conference’s Partnering Portal. Additional speakers will be announced shortly, as well as posted online.
Registration to attend the 2-day conference is now open online. For complete details, visit the 2021 Virtual Conference section at www.scbio.org. Registration is free to employees of most SCBIO investors and supporters as well as to students interested in life sciences, while faculty and teachers can attend the entire conference for $25. General admission tickets are available while they last for as little as $75. Limited Virtual Exhibit space and sponsorships are also available by inquiring at email@example.com.
The 2-day conference draws attendees from across America for networking, innovation updates, opportunity discovery, partnership making and strategic discussion. Already committed attendees include officials across a broad spectrum of life sciences industries including medical devices, bio manufacturing, drug discovery, R&D, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and testing, digital health and health IT, bio-ag and more.
SCBIO is South Carolina’s investor-driven economic development organization exclusively focused on building, advancing, and growing the life sciences industry in the state. The industry has a $12 billion economic impact in the Palmetto State, with more than 750 firms directly involved and over 43,000 professionals employed directly or indirectly in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotechnology products.
“Life sciences is a major driver of South Carolina’s economy, and this conference’s growth is testament to the industry’s surging impact, reach and rapidly rising economic significance in our state and region,” noted SCBIO President and CEO Sam Konduros. “Already accounting for thousands of highly-skilled jobs in the Palmetto State, this sector has tremendous growth potential, and we’re excited to virtually showcase the top companies, research universities and leaders from across our state and country at SCBIO 2021.”
Among leading biotech and med-tech industry brands participating in the conference are Nephron Pharmaceuticals, BIO, Johnson & Johnson, AVX, PhRMA, Medpoint, AdvaMed, Poly-Med, VWR, Ritedose Corporation, Rhythmlink, SoftBox Systems, ZEUS, Patheon Thermo Fisher, Zverse, Abbott, Alcami and more. All of South Carolina’s research universities – MUSC, Clemson and the University of South Carolina – are represented, as are major healthcare systems, and economic development entities including the South Carolina Department of Commerce, SCRA, South Carolina Hospital Association and many others.
As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members include academic institutions, biotech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups whose members are leading the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products that transform how we heal, fuel and feed the world.
For additional information on SCBIO or to register for SCBIO 2021, visit www.SCBIO.org.
SC's life sciences industry responds to the challenge of COVID-19 see more
I just completed a radio interview with SC Business Review, focused exclusively on the all-consuming and seismic topic of the Coronavirus – which is dramatically impacting all our lives. As I made clear to interviewer Mike Switzer, any relevance of me being interviewed as opposed to our scientists and clinicians is tied to the privilege that SCBIO has of serving as a voice and accurate storyteller for the 600+ life sciences companies and entities that proudly call the Palmetto State home.
And there are incredibly meaningful and encouraging stories to share in the midst of this very real public health crisis – regarding SC companies and institutions that will positively impact patients across the state and nation with innovative and creative approaches they are actively, and very rapidly, undertaking.
Just a few exemplary SC examples include:
- MUSC Health was the first in the nation to uniquely provide both direct, timely, and online access to Coronavirus screening via their virtual care platform coupled with a drive-through specimen collection site for patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. This was done in partnership with the developers (newest SCBIO Member, Trademark Properties) of the dramatically redeveloped Citadel Mall Epic Center, which is now home to MUSC Health’s West Ashley Medical Pavilion – as they worked closely to secure immediate approvals for the location of the collection site in the mall parking lot. If you or someone you know needs to be screened, log on to www.musc.care and use COVID19 as the promo code. This is FREE for all South Carolinians.
- Nephron Pharmaceuticals, a major national supplier of respiratory therapy medications badly needed by patients suffering from COVID-19, is aggressively ramping up their ability to increase production of 90 million sterile doses per month of targeted drug therapies with an additional 32 million doses, as they work with the FDA to have 3 new aseptic filling lines approved and brought online quickly to meet skyrocketing demands they are experiencing.
- Vikor Scientific has specifically dedicated 2,000 sq. ft of their brand new 22,000 sq. ft. headquarters and CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited lab facilities at WestEdge for COVID-19 testing as soon as approval is received from the FDA. They are in fact preparing 100,000 test kits to be available for shipment to customers as soon as Wednesday of this week – and are working closely with the FDA for continued guidance on expediting the approval process.
On the national front, there are also some encouraging stories emerging, including the most rapid launch of a possible new vaccine on record.
Moderna has already begun its first coronavirus vaccine trial in Washington State (the nation’s worst hot spot at present) with volunteers at Kaiser Permanente Research Institute in Seattle. Over the next 2 months, volunteers ages 18-55 will get two doses of the trial vaccine (known as mRNA-1273). Dr. Fauci of the national Coronavirus Task Force has confirmed that this 65-day development is the fastest ever accomplished for a new vaccine of this magnitude. And while widespread utilization of a newly approved vaccine is still likely 12-18 months away, gratefully progress is on track to achieve that. Also noteworthy are other vaccines and targeted therapies concurrently in the pipeline, involving companies such as Pfizer, Regeneron and Sanofi.
Finally, on a very personal note, each of us and our extended families are being dramatically impacted by this global pandemic and are encouraged to do our parts in mitigating the spread of this fearsome and highly contagious virus. After an extended battle with metastatic lung cancer, my dad peacefully passed away this past weekend, and regrettably his funeral will have to be limited to a private family graveside service (with a future memorial service to be scheduled once the health crisis has subsided). In an interesting juxtaposition of life & death, my nephew’s wedding this weekend has been compressed to a small family rehearsal dinner combined with a quiet ceremony in conjunction with the dinner. I’m certain that there will be a multitude of other similar stories from most of you regarding how we grapple and deal with this unprecedented event with no clear endpoint at present.
While all of this will ultimately be in our “rear view mirrors” at some point in the future through the power and innovation of our industry, our researchers, and our heroic healthcare providers, life and business as we know it will have to be dramatically different in the weeks – and possibly months – ahead. Expect a more virtual experience with SCBIO for the near future, and look to hear from us more often via electronic means ranging from e-blasts to social media efforts to increased website postings to webinars. I am fully confident that all of our life & health sciences companies and leaders will respond valiantly, and that this will bring out the best in us – with creative and even transformative solutions and strategies that will enable us to maintain momentum in our vital missions. And we will learn a great deal and grow through this challenging process – as our strength is truly forged in fire…
We will update you on various developments around COVID-19 and beyond and encourage all of you to share your stories of hope and progress as we collectively battle this formidable foe. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our SCBIO team for any reason, and we are more grateful than ever for all of you.
Sam Konduros, CEO
MUSC helping create new hope for cancer patients see more
As a 10-year journey comes to fruition, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researcher John O’Bryan, Ph.D., and colleagues have demonstrated a new therapeutic way to block a protein that is frequently mutated in cancers. These proof-of-principle findings were published on Feb. 8 in Cell Reports. This work, which involves inhibiting the oncogenic protein RAS using small molecules, lays a strong foundation for the development of clinical anti-cancer therapies.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year. Based on the urgent need for more effective therapies, researchers are always on the search for elusive treatments that can affect many cancers.
O’Bryan, who is a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the Medical University of South Carolina, said, “RAS is one of the most central and critical regulators of cell proliferation, and it is also the most mutated in cancers. Mutated RAS drives the growth of tumors. This makes it an attractive therapeutic target.”
The RAS family of proteins are mutated in nearly 20% of human tumors; however, there has been little progress in drug development for this target. “Think of RAS as a slick ball that does not let anything bind to it. Until recently, it was thought that mutant RAS could not be targeted with drugs. Now there is one FDA-approved drug for mutant RAS in lung cancer, which demonstrates that it is possible to target mutant RAS in some cases,” said O’Bryan.
The new drug sotorasib targets a mutant form of RAS that only occurs in less than 3% of all human cancers, so the new drug is not very useful across multiple types of cancers, O’Bryan said. His new method of therapeutically targeting mutant RAS is more promising because it has the potential to work with numerous mutant forms of RAS in multiple cancers.
“Pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers are three of the four most deadly cancers, and their growth is driven by mutations in RAS proteins. Therefore, successfully targeting mutant RAS has big implications for patients,” said O’Bryan.
The challenge with targeting RAS is due to the way it functions. It has “on” and “off” states that are regulated by binding to other molecules called nucleotides. There is also a third state called the nucleotide-free state when it is switching between on and off modes. However, RAS proteins are in their nucleotide-free states for such short amounts of time that it was previously thought that RAS could not be targeted during this very short-lived state.
O’Bryan’s collaborator Shohei Koide, Ph.D., from the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University, developed the monobody technology that overcomes the challenges with targeting nucleotide-free RAS. Monobodies are small synthetic binding proteins that can be designed to attach to cellular targets inside or outside of cells. Previously, targeting nucleotide-free RAS mutants was thought to be an impossible undertaking.
Targeting nucleotide-free RAS with the R15 monobody has allowed the researchers to understand RAS biochemistry more fully and discover opportunities to disrupt its cancer-promoting activity. Using a mixture of biochemistry techniques, cell culture work and animal models, they found that the R15 monobody blocks multiple forms of RAS mutants.
“We were surprised to find that many RAS mutants unlock nucleotides, and the R15 monobody can block these,” said O’Bryan. “It is a good sign that more than 50% of oncogenic RAS mutants may be susceptible to inhibitors binding nucleotide-free RAS. This makes targeting nucleotide-free RAS a viable approach for inhibiting many mutant RAS-driven tumors.”
There is often serendipity in a research career, O’Bryan said. “We got stuck by our early data because it did not make immediate sense. However, it turned out to be an exciting finding. There is a skill in discerning between insignificant artifacts in the data and something novel that is real discovery.”
This work provides a framework for other groups to target RAS in more effective ways. “The RAS protein, which was considered undruggable, is in fact able to be targeted by drugs,” said O’Bryan.
The researchers are very hopeful that this discovery can be used more comprehensively in the future. While cancers do adapt and mutate to become resistant to therapeutics, new drugs based on this concept might serve as additional tools in the arsenal to treat cancer, he said.
The next step in the journey will be to find small molecules in MUSC’s compound library that can be used to target mutant RAS in the same way as the R15 monobody. Since the R15 monobody cannot easily get into cells, O’Bryan explained that a small molecule targeting nucleotide-free mutant RAS proteins will be a more effective therapy.
“We are at a really good stage to exploit this mechanism,” said O’Bryan. “MUSC and Hollings have a really great culture of collaboration, which has helped to push this project forward. MUSC’s access to the massive library of small molecules helps to provide a lot of chemical diversity and intellectual property potential.”
The researchers feel that this research reveals a new window of opportunity for the development of novel anti-cancer agents necessary to improve patient outcomes.
Improving patient care is at the heart of Rhythmlink's success see more
As Columbia, S.C.-based Rhythmlink International, LLC (RLI) prepares to turn 20 years old this year, co-founder and CEO Shawn Regan is reflective on just how far the organization has come since “the early days.”
After spending more than a decade in the medical device and medical services fields, Shawn and his partners created Rhythmlink in 2002 to meet the needs of neurophysiologic end-users whom they discovered were underserved by both large and small medical device companies. Shawn’s passion to apply innovative engineering solutions to address customer needs while improving patient care and reducing medical costs set him—and Rhythmlink—on a growth path that today has reached over 325 employees worldwide and has landed the organization on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies nine times.
Of greater pride to Regan is the company’s ten straight years on South Carolina’s Best Places to Work list — a testament to Rhythmlink’s culture and the commitment of the organization to valuing the contributions and talents of its associates… whatever their role.
RLI is in the business of connecting patients to machines to record or elicit physiology information. It designs, manufactures, and distributes medical devices that go on or in a patient to help monitor the brain and the nervous system to identify and prevent serious neurologic conditions such as paralysis, seizures, and strokes. Rhythmlink’s products are commonly used in operating rooms, intensive care units, and other neurological clinical settings in hospitals. The company is now recognized as a leader within its field at providing the important physical connection between patients and the diagnostic equipment to record or elicit neurophysiologic biopotentials.
Originally founded by neurodiagnostic technicians and engineers, Rhythmlink is resolutely focused on continuous innovation and delivering superior quality in all of its products – and its advancements and improvements in technology and branding have brought national and international recognition to the former South Carolina start-up.
Indicative of the company’s focus on innovative product development are two notable recent offerings developed and marketed by the company: its MR Conditional/CT Compatible Quick Connect Electrodes and its Guardian Needle Electrode.
Rhythmlink was the first company in the world to achieve FDA approval for MR Conditional EEG electrodes. Rhythmlink’s FDA-cleared MR Conditional/CT Compatible Quick Connect Electrodes help eliminate the need and cost to have staff available to remove and reapply electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes each time a patient requires magnetic resonance (MR) imaging during critical care continuous EEG monitoring, long term epilepsy monitoring or in many other situations.
Electroencephalography is the recording of brain activity (i.e., brain waves) to help identify dangerous brain activity such as seizures. Prior to Rhythmlink’s MR Conditional products, any time a patient needed to have their brain monitored and needed to get an imaging study done, caregivers had to take off the electrodes, image the patient and then re-apply the electrodes. Getting electrodes on the head is time-consuming, qualified staffing in hospitals is limited, and application and reapplication can result in skin breakdown at the site of the electrodes. Applying the electrodes once and keeping them on during a patient’s stay saves time and cost while improving patient safety.
RLI achieved full FDA clearance on its MR Conditional EEG electrodes and the Quick Connect Electrode product line built upon the previous clearance. The product can also be used in a CT without having to take the electrodes off the head and re-apply them, furthering its potential use.
Rhythmlink’s Guardian Needle Electrode is a subdermal needle electrode designed to reduce accidental needle sticks and reduce the risk of exposure to cross contamination. Commonly used in the operating room for real-time monitoring and protection of a patient’s nervous system, this subdermal needle can be used for critical care environments, the ICU, Emergency Room or anywhere a needle electrode is called for. Additionally, the Guardian Needle combines to work perfectly with RLI’s EEG template for quick and accurate electrode placement.
The product was originally conceived of by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health clinicians, developed by the Zucker Institute of Applied Neurosciences (ZIAN) engineers and is today manufactured and sold by Rhythmlink, a testament to the power of collaboration in medical device innovation. The effort — ten years in the making — will make the operating room a safer place for health care team members the world over.
Traditional subdermal needle electrodes are used during surgery to monitor a patient’s nervous system during dangerous cases to identify and prevent paralysis, stroke and other dangerous conditions and outcomes during surgery. The small needles can become dislodged and accidently stick health care personnel during the surgery, whereas the new Guardian needle aims to reduce or eliminate the accidental needle sticks. Following extensive talks, licensing, contribution of additional IP to the patent and obtaining FDA clearance, Rhythmlink launched the product just over one year ago.
Twenty years of hard work and growth have come and gone quickly at Rhythmlink, yet the founders’ original passion still rings true today: improving patient care is — and always will be — at the very heart of Rhythmlink’s success.