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 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.
First in nation treatment for MIS-C, COVID-19 complication, at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s HospitalMUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston on leading edge of treatment see more
When 4-year-old K.J. Griffin arrived at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, the normally bubbly boy who loves to ride his bike and play outside with his friends was frighteningly limp.
His mother was stunned and exhausted. The little boy she’d worried about for days as his fever spiked had already been to a hospital near their home in rural Smoaks. But the condition K.J. was suffering from was so new and rare that it went unrecognized.
So Talaiyah Stephens watched over her son at home, doing what she could to ease his symptoms but feeling helpless as he got sicker and sicker. “He didn’t want to talk. All he would do was sleep. He’d wake up, throw up, go to the bathroom, then lay back down and go to sleep. He would look at you like he was staring right through you.”
When K.J.’s fever rose to 105 degrees and wouldn’t come down, Stephens came to a decision. She would drive him to MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, about an hour and 15 minutes away. It was a choice that saved his life.
MUSC partners with AstraZeneca, IQVIA in chase for vaccine for COVID see more
As researchers from across the globe race to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, the Medical University of South Carolina has entered as a key player in that fight. Along with AstraZeneca and IQVIA, MUSC was selected to be part of a Phase III trial of a vaccine that has shown promise in battling COVID-19.
“The science behind it looks good,” said MUSC emergency medicine physician Gary Headden, M.D., who will be leading the trial. “So, I’d say I’m optimistic.”
MUSC and Charleston will be part of the first wave of locations across the United States to test the vaccine. In total, manufacturers and researchers hope to enroll and collect data on 30,000 people across 20 cities in the U.S., with as many as 1,500 of those being from right here in Charleston.
For context: Once a pharmaceutical company thinks it has a promising vaccine on its hands, it begins clinical trials. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these trials consist of three phases:
- Phase 1, also referred to as initial human studies, is performed on small groups and focused on safety and the recipient’s immune response to the vaccine.
- Phase 2, which are usually administered on hundreds of people, are still focused on safety and fine-tuning the dosage and treatment regimen required.
- Phase 3 typically enrolls thousands of individuals and focuses on the safety and efficacy (how well it works) in a population.
If successful, the manufacturer can then submit an application to the FDA for approval.
Because of the unique world we’re living in, the U.S. government has implemented “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021. In other words, a process that often takes years is being compressed into mere months. To facilitate this process, the government is speeding up all aspects that can safely be sped up and is pumping billions of dollars into the pharmaceutical industry. AstraZeneca, the company that has manufactured the vaccine being tested at MUSC, received $1.2 billion alone.
According to Amanda Cameron, Trial Innovation Network manager at MUSC and a key figure in bringing the trial to the university, even with Operation Warp Speed in play, this is one of few Phase III vaccine trials out there.
“For us to get to bring a trial here to MUSC is incredible, but the fact that it’s one that researchers are optimistic about is even more exciting,” she said.
Recently, Russia claimed to have a vaccine ready. U.S. researchers believe it has effectively only cleared Phase I, so to roll it out so quickly could prove to be reckless, Headden said.
This week, MUSC will go live with a webpage, officially opening the trial to applicants. The hopes are that soon thereafter, the study's first patients will be seen at the Clinical Sciences Building on MUSC’s downtown campus. Several hundred have already expressed interest in participation, and MUSC clinical research manager Ashley Warden said the team would love to get as many people involved as possible.
“This is a really important research opportunity,” Warden said. “We need to have a therapy that can bring this pandemic into control. It would be best that those that participate in this trial are representative of our region.”
The trial – which will be double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled in a 2:1 ratio, meaning that for every two people who get the active vaccine, one will get the placebo – will require the participants to come in at Day 1 and Day 29 to receive their vaccines or the placebo.
Researchers and doctors hope each of these two visits will last about 90 minutes, during which time the participants will undergo a physical examination that includes having their medical histories reviewed, blood drawn for testing and a nasal swab test for COVID-19. The vaccine will then be administered.
All subjects will be monitored over a period of two years. During this time, those who show any signs of illness that could be due to COVID-19 will undergo additional testing. Compensation will be provided for participants’ time.
“This is a big study with an aggressive time frame, which is expected of a trial of this importance,” Headden said. “As for the science behind it, it’s totally solid. Put it this way: I would let my family take this vaccine.”
To learn more about the trial or to enroll, visit https://research.musc.edu/clinical-trials/coronavirus-clinical-trials.
SC invention provides a solution for reducing accidental needle sticks see more
Medical University of South Carolina neurophysiologist Jessica Barley, Ph.D., and neurologist Jonathan C. Edwards, M.D., noticed a clinical problem and decided to do something about it. The needle electrodes used to monitor a patient’s nervous system function during surgery can also pose a safety risk. Stranded uncapped needles can find their way into health care workers or even patients. Working with the Zucker Institute for Applied Neurosciences (ZIAN), an MUSC technology accelerator, and Rhythmlink International LLC, a medical device manufacturer headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, the team created a novel safety electrode that has the potential to reduce needle sticks.
The electrode, known as the Guardian Needle, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for intraoperative monitoring (IOM). The technology has been licensed to Rhythmlink, which is ramping up production for a rollout to hospitals nationwide this autumn.
“We thought it was unacceptable and unfair that the team providing the care to the patient should be put in harm's way by equipment that was meant to do the opposite and ensure patient safety,” said Barley, who runs the intraoperative neurophysiology program at MUSC Health and is co-inventor of the Guardian Needle. “This is how we first came up with the design.”
During high-risk surgical cases, the neurophysiology team uses IOM to monitor a patient’s nervous system. The process involves inserting approximately 40 needles throughout the patient’s body and connecting them with long wires to the IOM machine.
“IOM serves as a vital early warning system,” explained Barley. “It preserves neurologic function in real time.”
However, the setup increases the risk of needle dislocation. Currently available needles can become uncapped when dislodged from the patient’s skin. This results in a danger of needles sticking the staff while in the operating room (OR).
“We don't have to accept that a certain number of our staff are going to get stuck by an IOM needle,” said Edwards, chief of the Integrated Centers of Clinical Excellence in Neuroscience at MUSC Health and co-inventor of the Guardian Needle. “That's a problem, and it's our responsibility as people in the field to solve it.”
The Guardian Needle should protect the surgical team from harm because it is never uncapped. It was designed to deploy the electrode safely only when inserted in the patient. If the needle is dislodged from the skin, it automatically resheathes into its protective casing.
“The key thing is that you don't have to cap and uncap the needle, and it automatically retracts when it's not in the patient,” said Paul Asper, vice president of commercialization at ZIAN.
The design also includes adhesive bandages around the needles. The adhesives enable the team to secure needles to the patient without manually taping them, thus decreasing OR time and cost. The bandage, like the needle electrode, is sterile, which reduces the risk of infection from nonsterile tape.
“We did timed trials,” said Barley. “Just trying the full setup the very first time using the new design, we were all faster,” she said, comparing the new needles with the needles they had used before.
Not only does the Guardian Needle protect the surgical team and decrease OR time, but it also enables better patient care by reducing the risk of needle sticks to patients and helping to maintain a sterile environment.
The adhesives on the needle also secure it in place despite shifts in patient positioning. The adhesives thus ensure signal integrity as the electrodes monitor nervous system function during surgery.
The clinician-innovators were able to come up with the clever design because they were personally familiar with the clinical problem they were trying to address.
“Clinicians have great ideas all the time,” said Edwards. “But 99% of those ideas die, mostly because we don’t have time.”
Enter ZIAN, with the expertise, knowledge and resources to turn an idea into a product. In the case of the Guardian Needle, the ZIAN team developed a business plan and patent strategy, raised funding for research and development, engineered the prototype and forged a licensing agreement with a world-class medical device company, saving valuable time for the busy clinicians.
“The expertise on the ZIAN team aligns perfectly with the clinical expertise of the inventors, enabling both parties to execute on their strengths,” explained Mark Semler, CEO of ZIAN. The core mission of ZIAN is to develop and bring to market technologies that solve unmet clinical needs.
“We have that clinical perspective to create a pipeline of ideas,” said Edwards. “ZIAN provides the practical implementation of those ideas, and neither of those two would be successful without the other.”
Rhythmlink, a South Carolina-based company specializing in medical devices that record or elicit neurophysiologic biopotentials, has licensed the technology and has begun to ramp up production of the Guardian Needle. Their unique position in the industry allowed them to recognize the importance of this invention. That, combined with their contribution to the intellectual property, design enhancements for manufacturing and expertise in regulatory guidelines, helped the product become a reality.
“This is a great example of South Carolina organizations collaborating in the health care space and an illustration of South Carolina’s prowess in innovation, entrepreneurship, life sciences and manufacturing,” said Shawn Regan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Rhythmlink. “Creating a safer work environment for health care professionals absolutely aligns with our mission to improve patient care. Working with ZIAN and MUSC to develop the Guardian Needle and bring this creation to life was a no-brainer from a collaboration standpoint.”
Successful commercialization of the product and the widespread distribution that Rhythmlink can provide are key to realizing a potentially industry-changing standard of care. As the novel electrode is rolled out in hospitals across the country, researchers will collect needle-stick data to determine whether it is safer than the current standard of care. If it is safer, as its inventors believe, it would likely become the new standard of care, given federal workplace safety rules.
“Being at the forefront of an innovative and potentially industry-changing movement is exciting and exactly where we strive to be,” said Regan.
To the inventors, the Guardian Needle provided a way to make a difference not only for their MUSC Health colleagues but also for surgical team members across the globe.
“In health care, we gladly and eagerly place ourselves at risk every day when we're caring for others. But it does have an element of stress and anxiety,” said Barley. “This invention is particularly special because we're not only caring for our patients in a safer, higher-quality way, we're also protecting our colleagues and teammates. It feels like a way of giving back to them and keeping them safe.”
Edwards explained that it is this type of innovation that has enabled him to help patients and health care providers he will never meet. This he considers a benefit of practicing academic medicine.
“We always think of clinical practice, teaching and research as the three pillars of medicine,” he explained. “There's a fourth pillar, and that fourth pillar is innovation.”
Innovation has led this MUSC team to create a solution for a once-tolerated problem. They encourage other clinicians to do the same.
“Take obstacles as an opportunity to find the solution yourself,” encouraged Barley.
Life sciences community at WestEdge is booming see more
The newest WestEdge building is in stark contrast to the former landfill it is built on.
The glass-exterior 22 WestEdge office and research structure rises with a gleam above the underground layers of trash.
Evoking modernity and progress in eight stories, the 125-foot-tall building is touted as the tallest multi-tenant office structure on the peninsula and in the Charleston region.
The 156,000-square-foot building recently opened with 78 percent of it leased in advance, closing out the first phase of the long-planned WestEdge development.
Only two floors remain unoccupied, but ready for build-out with piles of drywall, ceiling tiles, wall studs and other building supplies lying on the floor.
The ground floor houses retail and restaurant space with Rush Bowls restaurant now open and French cafe Saveurs Du Monde to follow soon. REV, formerly Heritage Trust, Federal Credit Union and The Smile Store/Charleston Orthodontics recently began serving clients, too, on the first level. Read on for the entire article...
David Zaas, M.D., named CEO for MUSC Health - Charleston Div. and Chief Clinical Officer for MUSC HealthDavid Zaas Named to executive post at MUSC see more
Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., CEO for MUSC Health and vice president for Health Affairs, University, named David Zaas, M.D., MBA, as the new chief executive officer, MUSC Health - Charleston Division, and chief clinical officer for MUSC Health. In these roles, Zaas will report directly to Cawley, who leads the entire MUSC Health statewide system. Following a national search, Zaas was recommended for this major leadership position by a search committee co-chaired by Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., chair, Department of Surgery, and Lisa Montgomery, MHA, MUSC executive vice president, Finance and Operations. Zaas is scheduled to join MUSC in July.
As the CEO of MUSC Health - Charleston, Zaas will lead the MUSC Hospital Authority in Charleston, including the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. He will oversee the executive leadership team of the MUSC Health - Charleston Division and serve on the MUSC Health System Council, as CEO of our flagship hospital. His responsibility as chief clinical officer will involve providing guidance and advice on health care system strategies.
“Dr. Zaas has a deep appreciation for academic medicine and its critical role in research and innovation,” Cawley said. “He has a history of leading and promoting successful collaboration among a university, practice plan and health system. In addition, he is a profound advocate for patient and family centeredness and has a demonstrated track record of leading clinical growth, financial success and top performance in quality and safety. We look forward to the many contributions he can make to our health system,” he added.
Prior to accepting his new role, Zaas served as president of Duke Raleigh Hospital since 2014. His previous leadership positions at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, include: chief medical officer, Duke Faculty Practice Diagnostic Clinic; medical director, Duke University Hospital; vice chair, Department of Medicine, Duke University; and medical director for Lung and Heart-Lung Transplantation, Duke University Hospital. He has played a central role in advancing multiple key strategic initiatives for Duke Health, including care redesign, clinical integration and improving access for patients.
Zaas holds a B.A. in biology from Yale University, an M.D. from Northwestern University Medical School, and an MBA from Duke University. He completed his internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at Duke University. Zaas’s academic interests have involved both translational and clinical research focused on improving outcomes from lung transplantation including the role of infectious complications after transplant.
About MUSC Health
As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available, while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan, and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2019, for the fifth 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.
Founded in 1824, MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $3.2 billion. The more than 17,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
Blinktbi of Charleston, SC pinpoints concussions see more
A startup that grew out of research at the Medical University of South Carolina and The Citadel has hit the market and closed on a new round of funding.
Blinktbi Inc.’s EyeStat device, now being sold to schools and athletic programs, puffs food-grade carbon dioxide into a subject’s eye, triggering the blink reflex. Then, high-speed cameras within the device capture thousands of images and gauge how long it took for the person to blink.
The upstart raised nearly $5 million in 2017, its first year. Those early funds were used in part to finance ongoing research at The Citadel to prove the device can be used to detect concussions and other maladies.
Ryan Fiorini, Blinktbi’s chief operations officer, said the EyeStat prototype weighed 100 pounds, and it utilized a gaming computer to process the images.
The next job was to cut it down to size.
“It didn’t fit in the back of my full-size SUV,” said Fiorini, who has a doctorate immunology and microbiology from MUSC. “We rolled that into the engineer’s office and said, ‘We need this to be four-and-a-half pounds.’”
They were able to pull it off.
The company cleared a formidable hurdle at the end of 2019, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Blinktbi permission to market its device, after a rigorous review process that took months to complete. One study published in 2013 found the FDA’s process to get medical devices to market from the idea phase typically takes between three and seven years.
Now free to begin selling EyeStat, Fiorini said the company is leasing the technology to lessen the blow of the device’s full cost of about $10,000.
The latest round of funding, for about $6 million, will help offset the costs of manufacturing the medical devices, to make that option possible.
Fiorini said organizations can rent EyeStat for around $200 per month.
One day, the company hopes insurance will cover the use of the technology.
The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences estimated the number sports-related concussions every year falls between 1.7 million and 3 million. About 300,000 are football injuries. Half go unreported.
Concussions happen when a blow to the head causes the brain to bounce around in the skull, leading to a chemical response, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those chemical changes make the brain more sensitive to stress until it heals.
The CDC found in one study that children and teens account for 65 percent of all concussions.
Fiorini’s own son suffered a concussion when he fell off a dock as a toddler.
“What we would come to find out is that there was no way to test him,” Fiorini said in a TEDx talk in Charleston last year.
Studies of how the blink reflex can indicate diseases like Parkinson’s and schizophrenia date back to the 1950s. But no tool has been developed in the intervening decades to use the response to help with diagnosis.
Dr. Nancey Tsai, a neurosurgeon at MUSC, came up with the idea for a portable machine that could measure the blink reflex in 2011.
From there, the Zucker Institute for Applied Neurosciences, which is embedded within MUSC, helped to license the technology. Mark Semler, CEO of the institute and now an adviser to Blinktbi, said the startup is the second in the institute’s portfolio to pass FDA clearance.
“The market is huge, because there’s no good option out there,” Semler said. “The blink can’t be cheated.”
Right now, Fiorini said the company has fewer than 10 employees working out of its office on Rutledge Avenue. Among its advisers are heavy-hitters in the world of sports, including Danny Morrison, the former president of the Carolina Panthers, Steve Smith, a longtime wide receiver in the NFL, and Harvey Schiller, former executive director of the United States Olympic Committee and former president of the International Baseball Federation.
Looking forward, Blinktbi is researching whether its technology could help to detect Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Fiorini said he can see EyeStat in the hands of police for field tests, giving officers an immediate, objective measure of sobriety — though each new application for the device would require a new round of FDA approvals.
Many major life science firms have made the move to the Charleston region, and more are on the way see more
Compliments of Industry Today
December 19, 2019
Charleston leads the nation for job growth in scientific R&D firms. In the past two decades, major life science firms have made the move to the Charleston region. Charleston is home to 75+ medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, research laboratories and service companies. Life science executives across the globe are discovering that the Charleston region offers what many other larger, oversaturated markets cannot: a lifestyle that attracts and retains top talent, easy connections to life science and healthcare executives, and business-friendly regional and state support.
Read the full article HERE.
Greenwood Genetic Center, MUSC affiliate to improve patient access to innovations in genetic servicesMUSC partners with Greenwood Genetic Center see more
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have signed an affiliation agreement with the goal of providing patients across South Carolina with accessible, high-quality, coordinated and cost-effective genetic services through a collaborative approach to providing medical care. The two entities have worked together informally on clinical consultations, provider education and research for more than a decade. This affiliation seeks to formalize and expand the depth and breadth of the relationship. According to MUSC, a partnership with the state’s most advanced and innovative genetic center was an easy choice.
“I live in Greenwood, and I’ve said for years that a lot people don’t understand what an absolute gem this center is,” said Charles Schulze, chairman of the MUSC Board of Trustees. “They’ve helped almost 100,000 families across the state make incredibly important decisions, unmasked difficult-to-diagnose conditions, and have been there for these families every step of the way when faced with good news, or not so good news.”
While there are any number of reasons people may want to learn more about how their genetics may affect their or their loved ones health, all patients want the same thing: high-quality care at the lowest cost and access to the latest technologies, diagnostics and research related to their genetic stories. In the interest of better serving these needs, the initial goals of the partnership include:
- Increasing access to clinical genetic services for MUSC patients and all South Carolinians
- Optimizing the patient journey to improve wait times for appointments and consultations
- Sharing critical resources and expertise where possible to lower costs
- Pursuing workforce development, research, clinical trials and treatment collaborations.
Nearly every child in South Carolina who was diagnosed with a genetic birth defect, developmental delay or other hereditary disorder has already been referred to GGC, due to the center’s expertise with rare conditions and commitment to new technologies and diagnostics. GGC, a nonprofit institute centered on research, clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing and educational programs and resources, is focused on compassionate patient care and innovative scientific advancement.
About Greenwood Genetic Center
The Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), founded in 1974, is a nonprofit organization advancing the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects. At its home campus in Greenwood, South Carolina, a talented team of physicians and scientists provides clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and resources, and research in the field of medical genetics. GGC’s faculty and staff are committed to the goal of developing preventive and curative therapies for the individuals and families they serve. GGC extends its reach as a resource to all residents of South Carolina with satellite offices in Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville. For more information about GGC please visit www.ggc.org.
Clemson's Martine LaBerge shapes students, future through ehr work see more
Martine LaBerge said that in her 17 years leading Clemson University’s bioengineering department, she has learned something about leadership that she passes on to colleagues who are just starting down the same path.
“I tell them it’s all about people,” she said. “You get people aligned under one roof to believe in one brand and to have a mission that is focused on something other than themselves.”
A new award has brought leadership sharply into focus for LaBerge, who has served as chair of the bioengineering department since 2002.
The Biomedical Engineering Society recently honored LaBerge with the inaugural Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. The honor recognizes her extraordinary service to the society through volunteering and leadership.
It’s the latest of many milestones in a career devoted to advancing the field of bioengineering and turning Clemson’s bioengineering department into a powerhouse of education and research.
“Dr. LaBerge epitomizes the kind of leadership we seek at Clemson,” said Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “For our future success it is vital to look at what she has accomplished in bioengineering as a benchmark and instill a similar passion in the next generation. If we do this well, it will strengthen Clemson for decades to come.”
LaBerge has helped establish new collaborations with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. She has had a hand in hiring all but one of the department’s 30 faculty members, and she has worked with them to develop new curricula.
LaBerge was at the helm when a 29,000-square-foot annex was added to Rhodes Engineering Research Center. And she played a central role in establishing the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, also called CUBEInC.
The department’s faculty, with LaBerge’s support, lead two separate Centers of Biomedical Excellence, together representing $37 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Clemson ranks fourth this year among the nation’s best value schools for biomedical engineering, according to bestvalueschools.com. And in a separate ranking by U.S News & World Report, Clemson ranked 21st among biomedical engineering programs at public universities nationwide.
I.V. Hall, a former master’s student under LaBerge who is now on the department’s advisory board, said she has the ability to get people to buy into a vision and deliver what it takes to make it happen.
“Her influence and her passion are the reasons the department is where it is,” said Hall, who is worldwide president for the DePuy Synthes Trauma, Craniomaxillofacial and Extremities Division. “She personifies Clemson bioengineering.”
Throughout her career, LaBerge has remained in touch with students and their needs.
The commitment to students made an impression on Margarita Portilla, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in bioengineering.
“Dr. LaBerge is very close and always interacting with her students,” Portilla said. “I was always fascinated with her. As an undergraduate, I told my friends, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like Dr. LaBerge.’”
One of LaBerge’s guiding principles is summed up in the department’s motto, “exemplifying collegiality.”
At the start of each semester, she asks faculty to reflect on how collegial they are, using a short questionnaire and meter they can use to assess themselves. She also gives students a wallet-size card with the department’s mission, vision and goals, underscored by the motto in capital orange letters.
LaBerge calls it their “credit card to graduate and be successful in life.”
She said that what she likes best about her job is mentoring faculty, networking, building Clemson’s academic reputation and working with students.
“There is no better professional than a Clemson bioengineering student,” LaBerge said. “It’s because of the way we educate them. They’re honest, and they have integrity. Our kids leave with emotional intelligence, because they see people doing it. We teach by example, and we lead by example. And I think everybody in this department is like that.”
Nicole Meilinger, a senior bioengineering major, credits LaBerge with helping open several opportunities for her.
She said that LaBerge encouraged her to apply for a three-semester rotation at CUBEInC through the Cooperative Education Program. The position put Meilinger into contact with some of the department’s industry partners and gave her the chance to conduct research.
Meilinger said her work was published, and she had the opportunity to present her findings at conferences.
LaBerge also introduced Meilinger to a class on developing and selling medical devices and recommended her for an Arthrex scholarship, which she received. Meilinger said that she has secured an internship with Arthrex and plans to start after graduating in May.
“I came into bioengineering not knowing what I wanted to do, and Dr. LaBerge has been the biggest mentor in helping me find different career paths,” Meilinger said. “She’s always helping us in ways you can’t even imagine.”
LaBerge, who is originally from Canada, arrived at Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990. She remembers having offers from other U.S. schools within a year. Two years after she arrived at Clemson, she interviewed to be an astronaut, she said.
“That was when they were working on the space station,” LaBerge said. “Canada needed a couple of astronauts. I went through the interview process.”
Ultimately, another candidate was chosen, and LaBerge said that she admired and followed his career.
What has kept her at Clemson for nearly decades are the opportunities in the department.
“Larry Dooley (retired bioengineering chair and Clemson vice president of research) was a big mentor of mine,” LaBerge said. “He always saw positive, he always saw growth, he always saw big. I’m the kind of person who does not like to sit down. I like big things to look after. So, I think Larry was very instrumental with this.”
LaBerge has held numerous leadership positions in professional organizations, including president of the Society of Biomaterials, member of the Biomedical Engineering Society Board of Directors and chair of the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering in the U.S. and Canada.
In Clemson, her leadership positions included seven months in 2013 as acting dean of what was then the College of Engineering and Science, before the current dean, Anand Gramopadhye took the helm.
“Dr. LaBerge’s passion inspires students, faculty and staff to aspire to greater heights, learn more and achieve to the best of their abilities,” Gramopadhye said. “The Department of Bioengineering is thriving under her leadership. Further, she has exhibited leadership in key professional organizations, helping enhance Clemson’s national reputation in bioengineering. I congratulate her on the Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. It is richly deserved.”
MUSC and Siemens Healthineers Form Strategic Partnership to Disrupt and Reshape Health Care DeliveryMUSC, Siemens Healthineers craft extraordinary agreement to advance healthcare see more
The Medical University of South Carolina and Siemens Healthineers have formed a first-of-its-kind strategic partnership with the mutual goal of advancing the quality of health care in South Carolina. The partnership will capitalize on the coupling of MUSC’s clinical care, research and education expertise with Siemens Healthineers’ engineering innovations and workflow-improvement capabilities.
“We are leveraging a longstanding relationship to reshape what we can both deliver in health care,” said David J. Cole, M.D., MUSC president. “Our nation is demanding that we address our fractured, costly and inefficient health care delivery systems. As the leading academic health sciences center in this state, MUSC’s purpose must be to drive the highest quality care for our patients at the lowest cost through commitment and partnerships. In discussions with the Siemens Healthineers team, we discovered a high degree of alignment with these concepts, and we are very excited to have them move forward with us. Our mutual goal is to not merely provide the best care possible for just our patients; we will define the new gold standard for others to follow.”
Specifically, this new agreement will focus on driving performance excellence at MUSC and generating significant clinical and value-driven innovations in focused target areas including pediatrics, cardiovascular care, radiology, and neurosciences.
“Ultimately, our goal is to enable health care providers to get better outcomes at lower cost. We will achieve that by empowering MUSC clinicians on this journey through four specific areas of focus – expanding precision medicine, transforming care delivery, improving the patient experience, and digitalizing health care,” said Dave Pacitti, president of North America for Siemens Healthineers. “These four core values of Siemens Healthineers are representative of the goals of our strategic relationship with MUSC, and we hope that the spirit of this flagship partnership will initiate a trend in value based care within the industry.”
MUSC named to the Forbes 2019 list of America’s Best Large Employers see more
The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has been ranked No. 267 out of 500 organizations on the Forbes 2019 list of America’s Best Large Employers. MUSC is one of only 22 organizations included in the Healthcare & Social category. This is the second time MUSC has appeared on this annual Forbes list, which pinpoints the companies liked best by employees.
“Employee engagement and satisfaction are critical elements in achieving any organization’s success in both the short term and long term,” said MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS. “This recognition is a valuable acknowledgment of our ongoing efforts to provide every employee with a work environment where they are supported, appreciated and part of positive, life-changing teams.”
Collaborating with market research firm Statista, Forbes surveyed more than 50,000 employees working at U.S. companies and organizations with at least 1,000 people. The survey was conducted with global digital data collection partners who use innovative technology and proven sampling methodologies to facilitate a deep understanding of consumer opinions and behavior. Participation in the survey was voluntary, and respondents were recruited from thousands of sources to maximize reach and representation.
The survey included more than 30 detailed questions about working conditions. In addition, the American employees were asked to determine, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they were to recommend their employers to someone else. The survey also stratified workers’ responses on topics like innovation, remuneration, benefits and atmosphere. Further, they were asked how they feel about the other employers in their respective industries. The mix of respondents (gender, age, region and ethnicity) in the sample represents American employees.
About The Medical University of South Carolina
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South, as well as the state’s only integrated, academic health sciences center with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The state’s leader in obtaining biomedical research funds, MUSC brought in more than $276.5 million in fiscal year 2018.
As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available, while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan, and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2018, for the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit http://muschealth.org.
MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $3 billion. The more than 17,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.
MUSC continues advances in telehealth see more
The Medical University of South Carolina has received a $3.6 million grant to support the development of a national telehealth research network.
As opposed to supporting a specific clinical research study, the grant seeks to establish an easily accessible support structure around telehealth research, including tools, resources, collaboration, education and advocacy materials to anyone across the country who wants to study telehealth programs.
“We expect this network to become the preeminent source for evidence-based policy and outcomes data,” said Brook Yeager McSwain, health policy consultant for the project and manager of the S.C. Children’s Telehealth Collaborative, in a news release. “Our national and state legislators have seen the benefits of telehealth for certain populations and regions. We have to demonstrate to them that this works across the country and has the potential to dramatically impact health care delivery models.”
The five-year National Institutes of Health grant builds on work already underway as part of the Supporting Pediatric Research on Outcomes and Utilization of Telehealth project, known as Sprout. The grant will support telehealth research efforts, metric development, identification of best practices and the development of collaborative policy and advocacy materials across the country.
Sprout is a network of institutions and pediatric providers operating within the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a sub-awardee of the grant. The other sub-awarded institutions are the University of Colorado – Children’s Hospital Colorado, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.
“This is a huge step forward in the development of safe and impactful telehealth programs across the country,” said Dr. S. David McSwain, the primary investigator for the NIH grant, in the release. “Academic research into the real impact of telehealth services is a critical component of developing and growing programs with the greatest potential to improve our health care system.”
In 2015, McSwain, who is also an MUSC Children’s Health physician, MUSC chief medical information officer and associate professor of pediatric critical care, collaborated with a small group of pediatric physicians across the country to form Sprout, which has since completed and published the nation’s first broad assessment of pediatric telehealth infrastructure across the country.
The grant is a Collaborative Innovation award through the National Center for the Advancement of Translational Science. The program will operate in collaboration with Clinical and Translational Science Awardsites across the country to facilitate research development and support telehealth researchers to develop projects and find funding.
USEDA awards major grant to South Carolina group see more
Summerville, S.C.– SCRA has been awarded approximately $750,000 in federal grant funding by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) as part of the 2018 Regional Innovation Strategies Competition. The grant will fund the creation of the South Carolina Medical Device Alliance to invent and develop products and bring them to market. This partnership, comprised of Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and industry leaders, will form a regional innovation cluster to grow the economic impact of the medical device industry through job creation and startup formation, as well as to attract international businesses to establish a presence in South Carolina. The project total is $1,814,846, which includes the federal grant funding and matching funds.
“We are honored to be one of forty recipients nationwide,” said Christine Dixon Thiesing, SCRA’s Director of Academic Programs. “This program will serve South Carolina’s academic institutions and clinical innovators to overcome challenges inherent in the commercialization of medical devices. Building the medical device sector will also diversify South Carolina’s economy strategically by leveraging the existing skilled workforce and fostering a broader range of job opportunities for its workers.”
“MUSC’s Foundation for Research Development (FRD) is excited to be partnering with SCRA on this project,” said Michael Rusnak, Executive Director of FRD. “This gives MUSC one more vehicle to advance medical device technologies through our company startup activities; a substantial win for local economic development and more importantly, patients.”
“I am constantly amazed by the creativeness and vision that our students bring to their senior design projects here at Clemson,” said Dr. John DesJardins, Director of Clemson Bioengineering’s Undergraduate Design Program. “Our clinical and industry partnerships in design are essential to this educational process, and we are excited to have the medical devices invented in our senior design program serve as a pipeline in the development and commercialization of innovative biomedical devices.”
The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation.
To learn more about the South Carolina Medical Device Alliance, including the scope of work and key personnel click here.
SCRA is a state-chartered organization that fuels South Carolina’s innovation economy by accelerating technology-enabled growth in research, academia, entrepreneurship and industry.