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  • sam patrick posted an article
    Hundreds of nation’s industry leaders to gather for strategic partnership development, insights see more

    With the biggest story of 2021 – the global COVID-19 pandemic – serving as a backdrop, the largest life sciences conference in Palmetto State history will convene both in-person and virtually February 22-24 to address how South Carolina and America are accepting the challenge of  achieving health and prosperity for all, South Carolina life sciences industry officials have announced.

    Themed “Challenge Accepted,” the 2-day SCBIO 2022 event will feature national speaker sessions on Transformational Technologies, Next Generation Patient Care, Ensuring Opportunity for All, and Embracing Collaboration & Innovation – fundamental forces driving the state’s fastest growing industry: life sciences.

    Currently listed as a $12 billion industry, national economist Dr. Joseph Von Nessen of University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business will report findings of a just-completed economic impact study of the state’s life sciences cluster, last analyzed in 2017.

    FDA Associate Director of the CDER Drug Shortage Staff Valerie Jensen is the first announced featured major speaker for the 2-day conference, addressing the gathering in a Program “Challenge Accepted:  Delivering Next Generation Care to Patients Now.”  A trained clinical pharmacist, Captain Jensen was one of the initial developers of FDA’s Drug Shortage Program and was named Associate Director in 2012. She continues to manage the Drug Shortage Staff at FDA. Joined by MUSC Health CEO Dr. Pat Cawley, Velocity Clinical Research executive Steve Clemons, and USC Provost Dr. Stephen Cutler, the panel will focus on the industry’s success in to expediting development of medicine, devices, technologies and vaccines in record time and with startling efficacy – and what it means for care around the world going forward.

    Captain Jensen will be joined by more than 25 additional presenters and honorees at SCBIO 2022, which brings together leaders and executives from life science organizations across the nation to South Carolina. In deference to the pandemic, FDA protocols on safety are being rigorously adhered to and events are also being presented and distributed virtually, organizers revealed.

    The conference will feature a significantly expanded exhibit hall showcasing scores of life sciences industry businesses, institutions of higher learning and essential support industry partners from across America, as well as presentation of the prestigious Pinnacle Awards by South Carolina Life Sciences to the outstanding 2021 Organization of the Year and Individual of the Year. Also to be honored with Pinnacle Awards will be an inductee into the SC Life Sciences Hall of Fame, and an award for an industry Rising Star under 40 years of age.  

    New SCBIO CEO James Chappell will deliver a highly anticipated “State of South Carolina’s Life Sciences Industry” address, while hundreds of in-person and virtual attendees will 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 more details, visit the 2022 Annual Conference section at www.scbio.org. Registration and exhibiting are free to many SCBIO investors. Early bird general admission pricing provides significant discounts to interested companies, industry supporters, students interested in life sciences, faculty and teachers. Limited Exhibit  space and sponsorships are also available by inquiring at info@scbio.org.

    The 2-day conference annually 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 more than 700 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.  In early 2021, Governor Henry McMaster issued an Executive Order making it a state priority to continue to grow and expand the life sciences industry in the Palmetto State.

    “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 James Chappell. “Already accounting for thousands of highly-skilled jobs in the Palmetto State, this sector has tremendous growth potential, and we’re excited to showcase top companies, research universities and leaders from across our state and country at SCBIO 2022.” 

    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, 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 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.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Improving patient care is at the heart of Rhythmlink's success see more

    Compliments of Scribble

    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.

     

  • sam patrick posted an article
    MUSC making its mark in cancer treatments see more

    Many cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer cells by inducing significant DNA damage beyond repair. But some tumors still develop alternative ways to survive. Now, scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified such a molecular pathway that helps cancer cells evade destruction.

    The protein ECT2 is critical for the activation of a backup survival mechanism cancer cells resort to as part of their response to DNA damage, the scientists described in a study published in the journal Science Signaling.

    As DNA damage response is essential for cell survival or death, better understanding of its mechanisms could lead to better combination therapies that can overcome tumor resistance, three researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) said in an accompanying editorial.

    Scientists know that the kinase AKT is a key regulator of genome stability—hence cell survival—by mediating downstream signaling involved in DNA damage response and DNA repair. Increased activation of the enzyme has been linked to cancer progression and resistance to drugs. However, the exact mechanisms of AKT activation in the face of DNA damage were unclear.

    For its study, the MUSC and Beth Israel team treated multiple cancer cell lines with ionizing radiation or the chemotherapy etoposide and examined their responses. The researchers found that in response to drug-induced DNA damage, the DNA-PK enzyme modified a subunit of the mTORC2 protein complex.

    ECT2 recognized that interaction and subsequently promoted AKT activation, according to the team. When ECT2 was removed in cancer cells, treatment with etoposide didn’t induce AKT activation. Compared with control cells, these ECT2-depleted cells responded better to etoposide, showing decreased colony formation.

    What’s more, reintroducing ECT2 to the cells enhanced AKT activity, while an ECT2 mutant failed to do so, the team showed. Between the two groups, cells expressing normal ECT2 were less sensitive to etoposide partly because of reduced cell death.

    A cancer patient may go through multiple lines of treatment as cancer cells outsmart the drugs they encounter. Many research groups are exploring ways to render resilient tumors vulnerable to existing treatment. Last year, two teams of scientists demonstrated the promising effects of inhibiting an enzyme called POLQ on BRCA-mutated tumors that had stopped responding to traditional PARP inhibitors.

    A research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne recently proposed adding CSF1R inhibition to control tumor-associated macrophages as a strategy to restore responses to the combination of PD-1/L1 immune checkpoint inhibitors, antiangiogenic drugs and chemo.   

    “Targeting the [DNA damage response] in cancer is of great clinical importance to traditional, current and emerging therapies including immunotherapy given the observed induction of antitumor immunity by DDR-targeted therapies,” the UIC researchers wrote in the editorial. 

    Findings from the current study pointed to combining DNA damage with DNA-PK-ECT2-mTORC2 network inhibition as a more efficient therapy against cancer, they said.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    The life sciences cluster in Charleston, SC -- and across the state -- is booming see more

    Compliments of CRDA and Investment Monitor

    Aligned by a shared vision for a healthier world, a united life sciences sector is a powerful thing. In the Charleston, South Carolina, market, strong synergies between new and established businesses, academic institutions and state-led initiatives provide prime opportunities for scientific innovation and business success. A growing cluster of life science companies prove testament to the power of the region’s networks.

    When considering possible locations for a new office, laboratory or manufacturing site, life science businesses will have a long checklist. This includes a provision of talent, access to markets, ease of transport and connectivity, quality of life and support from local government. When these elements come together an additional benefit is created: a thriving scientific ecosystem that generates a virtuous circle of advantages for businesses and their employees.

    The Charleston region’s ecosystem helps companies solve business challenges and mitigate risks. As a result, an increasing number of biotech and medtech manufacturers, research laboratories and service companies are calling the area home, giving birth to a burgeoning life sciences community and all the network effects that come with it. For companies seeking to enter or expand in the US, the professional economic development organization, Charleston Regional Development Alliance, exists to guide you through the process. The Alliance provides multiple services at no cost to the company.

    Click here to continue reading the entire article.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    MUSC's Cole honored for contributions see more

    The Charleston Metro Chamber announced Dr. David J. Cole as the recipient of the 2021 Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award, which will be presented at the Chamber's Member-Bration on December 3.

    Named after one of the region's most notable and popular leaders, the late father of Former Mayor Joe Riley, the Joseph P. Riley award was initiated in 1992 by the Charleston Metro Chamber. This prestigious award recognizes an outstanding leader who has, through a lifetime of leadership, committed to making the community a better place to live, work and do business. The recipients of this award are dedicated to serving and strengthening the Charleston community.

    In leading South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health system, Medical University of South Carolina President, Dr. David Cole, demands excellence from himself and those that he leads.

    "The Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award is conferred on a transformative leader who has a deep and meaningful impact on our area," said Bryan Derreberry, President and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber. "Dr. Cole has and continues to provide compassionate, medically advanced and public health savvy leadership in a once-in-a-century global pandemic. He ‘willingly stepped into the gap’ to be the clear signal we all needed to navigate one of the most pressing crises in our region’s history. His actions and ongoing impact are at the heart of what epitomizes the Joseph P. Riley award. Congratulations to Dr. Cole, his family and the MUSC team and Board of Trustees on this distinguished honor."

    Dr. Cole’s past, present and future leadership relevance to the Charleston region will be showcased at the Chamber’s annual member recognition event, Member-Bration, on December 3. The Chamber will also recognize other outstanding business leaders and organizations, who are doing exceptional work in our region with Honors Awards.

    Previous winners of the Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award include Dr. Jairy C. Hunter (2019), Len Hutchison (2018), Perry Keith Waring (2017), W. Brian Moody (2016) and Thompson E. Penney (2015).

    For more information about the 2021 Member-Bration and to purchase tickets visit www.charlestonchamber.org/memberbration.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    New DNA-based approach may be wave of the future see more

    Compliments of Greenville Business Magazine

    If your doctor knew your risk for colon cancer or heart disease years before the disease developed, he or she could help you take steps to prevent it.

    And by collecting DNA samples from thousands of South Carolinians, the Medical University of South Carolina is embarking on a project which hopes to do just that. 

    In the initiative, which stakeholders call the first of its kind in the state, MUSC is partnering with population genomics company Helix to study DNA to drive a concept known as precision medicine. It allows providers and patients to develop health care plans with a more preventive approach.

    The power in precision medicine cannot be overstated, said Dr. Lori McMahon, vice president and associate provost for research at MUSC.

    “Genes are what make us who we are,” she told Integrated Media, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine. 

    “What we learn here … will influence care for individuals across the country and across the globe.” 

    The earlier genes associated with a disease are found, the better the chances of successful treatment, said Dr. Dan Judge, professor of medicine and cardiology at MUSC and director of cardiovascular genetics.

    Theoretically, this concept might have helped “Black Panther” star and Anderson, S.C., native Chadwick Boseman, he said.

    Boseman died last year of colon cancer at the age of 43, seven years before traditional colonoscopy screening typically begins, he said. 

    Had he learned through DNA testing that he had a propensity to develop the disease, that screening could have begun much earlier, perhaps in time to keep the cancer from progressing, he said.

    And a woman with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer might begin mammograms at an earlier age or get more sensitive MRIs instead, Judge said.

    “We hope we’ll be saving lives with this project,” he said. “That’s really the bottom line.”

    The project will focus on certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease initially, but hopes to expand to other diseases in time, McMahon said.

    Called “In Our DNA SC,” the project hopes to enlist 100,000 South Carolina adults – 25,000 a year for four years, Judge said.

    The initiative will start with MUSC patients who already have an electronic health record and an upcoming appointment, he said. They will get a message through MyChart to let them know they’re eligible. Later, it will expand across South Carolina.

    “It won’t be something that private physicians can order directly,” he said. “This program requires people to sign up through a review board process so that it’s gone through protocol, and safety and confidentiality issues are all addressed.”

    Similar programs have identified as many as one in 75 participants who were at risk for a serious health issue, 90 percent of which would not have been discovered through traditional practice, said Dr. James Lu, CEO and co-founder of California-based Helix, which describes itself as a population genomics company at the intersection of clinical care, research and genomics.

    “By expanding access and making genomic data actionable for health care providers,” he said, “we will be able to work in tandem with MUSC … to identify risk earlier and prevent or mitigate serious diseases for its community and beyond.”

    The popularity of companies like 23andme shows that people want to understand their genetics, McMahon said.

    “People are even buying DNA kits for their dogs,” she said.

    The genetic test is free to participants and involves only a saliva sample.

    Genetic counseling will be provided to patients whose DNA reveals a risk for disease so there can be further discussion of what it means for the patient and for family members who might be at risk as well, he said.

    In addition to the clinical component, the project has a research component that will develop a dataset to advance genomics research.

    It also will examine how genetic changes influence the development and progression of disease, McMahon said, and help in the development of new and better therapeutics. 

    For instance, some people respond to certain blood pressure medications while others don’t, but it’s not understood why.

    “This will help us try to understand the genetic basis for that,” she said, “and who may need alternate therapy.” 

    Caroline Brown, chief of external affairs at MUSC, said the hospital system and Helix took steps to ensure that patient data are secure. While the results are linked to the patient’s medical record so his provider has access to them, the information is de-identified for research purposes, she said.

    The genetic results will be entered into the participants’ medical records, like a chest X-ray or MRI results are, where they are available to insurers, Judge said.

    While there is a law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act that protects people from health insurance or employment discrimination on the basis of genetics, information in medical records can be used to deny life insurance or charge more for it, he said. Patients will be informed of that as part of the consent form for participation, he said.

    Brown said that as a state academic medical center, MUSC is focused on building its genomics prowess to ensure it can be a leader in precision medicine in the future. It chose to partner with Helix because of its established data analytics platform which is capable of large-scale projects like this, she said.

    “MUSC looked for a strategic partner to offer genetic testing that can be provided to the patient and his provider so they better know how their genetic makeup impacts their health,” she said. 

    MUSC has identified funding for the program, Brown said, but she declined to divulge the cost.

    McMahon said that when patients and providers are armed with genetic information, they can make better decisions about care going forward and push health care to a new level.

    “This is the way of the future,” she said.

    And Judge said he expects it will likely be routine within 20 years. 

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Expanding partnerships bode well for South Carolinians see more

    Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) and The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) have signed a letter of intent to expand their longtime collaboration to improve access to high-quality, coordinated and cost-effective genetic services and their recent affiliation to drive innovation in the genetics field. A definitive agreement and approval by both organizations’ boards is still required and anticipated by the end of the year.

    The deeper relationship between GGC and MUSC Health presents opportunities to further improve access and enhance patient care, increase access to a broader range of educational opportunities for MUSC students, and position the organizations to take advantage of future strategic research initiatives. The two entities have worked together on clinical consultations, provider education, and research for more than a decade. According to MUSC, adding to the depth and breadth of the almost two-year old formal affiliation with the state’s most advanced and innovative genetic center was an easy choice.

    “We are so pleased to continue aligning and innovating with this like-minded and advanced care provider for the benefit of the state’s citizens,” said James Lemon, D.M.D., chairman of the MUSC Board of Trustees. “We are excited for what the future holds as we move forward together.”

    MUSC Board of Trustees vice-chairman and Greenwood resident, Charles Schulze, agreed. “I live in Greenwood, and I’ve said for years that a lot people don’t understand what an absolute gem GGC is. They’ve helped about 100,000 families across the state make incredibly important decisions, discovered difficult-to-diagnose conditions, and have been there for these families every step of the way.”

    With recent and rapid growth in the understanding of how genetics impacts health throughout the lifespan, access to genetic information is increasingly important for individuals to make informed healthcare and lifestyle decisions. With a primary goal of improving access for patients and their families, this expanded relationship between GGC and MUSC aims to leverage both organizations’ strengths and expertise. Together they will provide high-quality care and access to the latest technological advances in diagnostics, research, and treatment. In the interest of better serving these needs, the expanded goals of the relationship include:

    • Co-developing a strategic plan for genetic services.
    • Continuing to increase access to clinical genetic services for MUSC patients and all South Carolinians.
    • Building on collaborative telehealth platforms to improve wait times for appointments and consultations.
    • Sharing critical resources and expertise where possible to lower costs.
    • Pursuing additional workforce development, research, clinical trials and treatment collaborations.
    • Advancing precision health and jointly serving as leaders in this innovative, dynamic area of health care.

    Nearly every child in South Carolina who has been diagnosed with a genetic birth defect, developmental delay or other hereditary disorder has already benefited from GGC expertise, due to the center’s depth of care for children 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. This deepened relationship with MUSC will mean GGC can expand their purview to include additional adult genetics services to help serve patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions.

    “The Greenwood Genetic Center places great importance on collaborations that improve the quality of care and benefit the patients and families we serve,” said Steve Skinner, MD, GGC Director. “Over the past two years, our affiliation with MUSC has expanded projects such as telemedicine that have had a significant and lasting impact on access to genetics care. With the further expansion of this relationship, GGC can have an even stronger impact on patient care through a connection to MUSC’s broad subspecialties network and clinical trial experience, while GGC can enhance MUSC’s ability to provide pediatric genetics care and state-of-the art clinical genetic testing. It’s a win-win for both institutions, but most importantly, this collaboration is a win for the people of South Carolina who need genetic care, information, and resources.”

    David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president, echoed the benefits of the affiliation offered by Skinner, adding, “Two years ago, we started to align the national caliber genetic expertise of GGC- with our outstanding academic medical faculty and specialty care providers,” he said. “It’s been making a real difference for our patients. We’re moving health care forward for all, bringing the best of both organizations so that we can create opportunities for more South Carolina citizens to understand, plan for and manage their health and wellness. By further connecting our work and accountability to each other, MUSC and GGC stand poised to deliver on precision health and even better patient care, research innovations and unique learning opportunities for our students.”

    “The Greenwood Genetic Center and MUSC individually provide exceptional care to patients across South Carolina, each with their own unique areas of expertise,” said Dell Baker, chairman of the GGC Board of Directors. “By further combining our strengths and building upon the other’s needs, this expanded relationship between our organizations has South Carolina poised as a leader in providing the best and most advanced genomic medicine for its citizens.”

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Researchers awarded $120,000 grant see more

    SC INBRE is pleased to announce that a team of South Carolina biomedical researchers has received an NIH NIGMS collaboration award. This goal of this one-year funding opportunity is to encourage collaborations between IDeA programs investigators while providing students a broad continuum of research opportunities. The team of Dr. Austin Shull from Presbyterian College and Dr. Antonis Kourtidis from the Medical University of South Carolina were awarded approx. $120,000 for their project. Dr. Shull is a current recipient of an SC INBRE Developmental Research Project Program (DRP) award; Dr. Kourtidis is a member of CDLD [Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Digestive and Liver Disease]. This is the third consecutive year NIH NIGMS has offered collaborative awards and the third consecutive team from South Carolina to have received one.

    As described in the project proposal, “Loss of epithelial integrity is common in cancer. However, mechanistic understanding of how compromised epithelial architecture promotes aberrant cell behavior, is still incomplete.” The collaboration team will be investigating a novel functional interaction between the adherens junctions, which are guardians of epithelial integrity, with ribonucleoprotein complexes, which has the potential to significantly advance their knowledge in the field. “Collectively, the experimental approach will aide in making considerable strides for understanding the downstream intracellular consequences that induce a mesenchymal-like cancer cell state when disrupting the adherens complex via PLEKHA7 suppression.”

    Said the collaborators, “Since meeting at an SC INBRE Symposium in Columbia, SC in 2020, we have been in communication about initiating a collaborative research project between our labs which will advance our mutual interests in investigating the molecular consequences in disrupting cell-cell junction in epithelial cells that contribute to cancer progression. This collaborative project will support the long-term trajectory of our labs by leveraging our different research backgrounds and combining our technical expertise to address fundamental gaps in the field’s current knowledge about the molecular changes that take place during disruption of cell junctions. In addition, the findings from this project will serve as critical pilot data for a larger follow-up proposal to support this collaborative work.”

    Presbyterian College undergrads will perform the vast majority of experiments and data analysis. Dr. Shull has a strong track record of mentoring undergrads with many students being leading presenters of their personal work at national meetings (ex: American Association for Cancer Research). Shull is fully committed to continuing his mentorship of undergrads and advancing their exposure to novel techniques, growing research areas, and quality experts within their respective fields through this collaborative project. For the first Aim of this project (COBRE Investigator-led efforts – Examine increased mRNA translation activity in PLEKHA7-depleted epithelial cells), Presbyterian College undergrads (along with Shull) will travel to MUSC to perform experiments under the training and guidance of Dr. Kourtidis. The students will be able to leverage the expertise of the MUSC Cell Models Core in developing gene-edited cell lines pertinent for the proposal. For the second Aim (INBRE investigator-led efforts – Determine the DNA methylation changes caused by translocation of PIWIL2 from the adherens junctions to the nucleus), Presbyterian College undergrads will perform experiments at Presbyterian College under the guidance of Shull with samples received from MUSC.

     September 29, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    COVID variant surging in SC see more

    When associate professor Julie Hirschhorn, Ph.D., saw the latest results of the Medical University of South Carolina’s sequencing run for COVID variants, she was struck by the absolute dominance of the Delta variant.

    “Literally 100%,” the director of MUSC’s Molecular Pathology Lab said. “It kind of boggles my mind. We’re waiting to see what's going to come next. The possibility is that we have hit a branching point where from now on, anything that we see is going to be an offspring of Delta.”

    Delta is already a prolific parent variant, spawning a growing number of “sublineages,” or variants with slightly different mutations. Hirschhorn’s colleague, Bailey Glen, Ph.D., is tracking their progress.“They went from there being no Delta sublineages to three to 12. Now we're up to 33, I think,” he said.

    “I have never seen that many new lineages pop up quickly,” Hirschhorn said.

    What does all of that mean for the public? First of all, the threat to unvaccinated people is clear.“We want them to know that Delta's still very much out there and still very transmissible,” Hirschhorn said.

    Second, Glen said, Delta’s mutations serve as a reminder of how important it is to slow the virus’ spread. “The more it spreads the more chance there is for it to mutate, and clearly it can change pretty dramatically and how effectively. We've definitely seen that already. What’s the ceiling on this? How bad can it get? I don't know, but there's no reason to think it can't get worse.”

    As for why Delta has been able to vanquish the variant competition so completely, Hirschhorn pointed to its characteristics. “It has mutations in the spike protein that help it get into cells easier. And then some of the other mutations assist in making more copies of the virus itself. So it gets in better and it makes more copies of itself,” she said.

    “If you think about virus transmissibility, when we had the original version of the virus, every infected person would infect on average one or two people. And then with the Alpha variant we first saw in the U.K., every person infected would transmit it, on average, to four people. And then with Delta, it transmits on average to seven or eight people.”

    Part of the problem may be that Delta causes people to carry higher viral loads, Hirschhorn said. “And so if somebody coughs or you're sitting in a room together and no one's masked, it's going take a shorter period of time to transmit to you.”

    The good news is that for now, indications are that the current COVID surge in South Carolina may be easing. In the Charleston Tri-county area, case numbers are still high, but down from the surge’s peak of a couple of weeks ago.

    But that doesn’t mean the virus is going away. “One of the things that I do get concerned about when coming off of a curve like this is where we end up, as far as a steady state,” Hirschhorn said, referring to the level where case numbers settle.

    “So before Delta hit, we had gotten down to only 1% — it was so low. It's the lowest I'd seen it. My biggest concern is that steady state level of COVID might get stuck at like 5% or 7% or even 10% positivity. And that really doesn't bode well for the next mutated version, because the next wave could result in even higher positivity rates. And if the next variant strain transmits faster, we would start out in a rough spot.”

    Her lab is working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to get that message out. “It has been a really positive experience so far. I've had multiple people from DHEC reach out and say, ‘Thank you for sharing your data. This is great. We're so excited.’ I hope that our contribution will help the DHEC website give a clear picture of what's going on,” Hirschhorn said.

    She also hopes people use the information to make good decisions. “I guess that's part of this thought process — how do we keep each other safe while still trying to have a life? My best advice is to be kind and think about others. There are ways to get together safely, such as being outside. There are ways to see each other and keep in touch and try to keep that human connection.”

     September 26, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Major donation to MUSC see more

    Compliments of Lowcountry Biz SC

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    About MUSC

    Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

     September 24, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Large-scale initiative will advance innovative research, improved health outcomes see more

    CHARLESTON, S.C. and SAN MATEO, Calif., (Sept. 20, 2021) – The Medical University of South Carolina  (MUSC) and Helix have announced a strategic collaboration to develop a first-of-its-kind population genomics initiative in South Carolina called In Our DNA SC. The large-scale program is designed to improve health care outcomes by integrating genetic insights into clinical care and research. The statewide initiative will enroll 100,000 patients in genetic testing over the next four years at no cost to the patient.

    The program will enable the use of genomic insights with an initial focus on actionable information regarding a patient’s risk for certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The genetic reports will allow patients and their health providers to develop precision health care plans to proactively mitigate the conditions and take a more preventive approach to patient care. Patient enrollment in In Our DNA SC is expected to begin in the fall.

    In addition, MUSC and Helix will be developing a robust clinico-genomic dataset from consenting participants that will help researchers learn what can cause certain diseases, how we may be able to treat them more effectively and, possibly, improve the standard care for everyone. This is expected to lay the groundwork for a broader collaboration with other organizations across the health care value chain.  

    “As South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health sciences center, delivering the highest quality care throughout the state is our top priority,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “Precision medicine is an emerging field that is going to transform the future delivery of health care. Being a leader and helping to define this path is core to our mission. We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Helix to deploy this first-of-its-kind population genomic program for our patients. This collaboration will help drive preventive, precision health care for South Carolinians.” 

    The strategic relationship with Helix allows MUSC to leverage Helix’s unique Sequence Once, Query Often TM model and its end-to-end integration platform to enable immediate application and continual on-demand use of genetic insights throughout a patient’s life. By working with South Carolina’s only integrated academic health sciences center in the state, Helix gains access to thousands of providers and research staff dedicated to understanding how to deliver the highest quality patient care available to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond.

    “Large-scale population genomics initiatives like this have the potential to significantly improve a health system’s ability to deliver population and precision health insights to patients,” said James Lu, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Helix. “In similar programs, as many as 1 in 75 participants have been found to be at risk for a serious health issue, of which 90 percent would not have been discovered through traditional practice. By expanding access and making genomic data actionable for health care providers, we will be able to work in tandem with MUSC, the no. 1 hospital in South Carolina, to identify risk earlier and prevent or mitigate serious diseases for its community and beyond.”

    Enrollment in the program will initially be available to patients who sign up at select MUSC clinics and locations, later expanding to participants throughout the community and state in collaboration with MUSC’s clinical affiliates and partners. Additionally, participants who consent to securely contribute their genetic data will help MUSC develop one of the largest clinico-genomic datasets in the country. Analyses from this platform will be used to pioneer and further advance genomics research. 

    ###

     

    About the Medical University of South Carolina 

    Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

    As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safe patient care while training generations of compassionate, competent health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Close to 25,000 care team members provide care for patients at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and 5 additional hospital locations in development, more than 300 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in the Lowcountry, Midlands, Pee Dee and Upstate regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.

    MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.4 billion. The more than 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.

    About Helix

    Helix is the leading population genomics company operating at the intersection of clinical care, research, and genomics. Its end-to-end platform enables health systems, life sciences companies, and payers to advance genomic research and accelerate the integration of genomic data into clinical care. Powered by one of the world’s largest CLIA / CAP next-generation sequencing labs and the first and only FDA authorized whole exome sequencing platform, Helix supports all aspects of population genomics including recruitment and engagement, clinically actionable disease screening, return of results, and basic and translational research. In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Helix has launched a sensitive and scalable end-to-end COVID-19 test system to meet the needs of health systems, employees, governments, and other organizations across the country. Learn more at helix.com

     September 24, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Artificial intelligence a critical factor in improving healthcare, booming life sciences industry see more

    Compliments of Columbia Business - Charleston Business - Greenville Business Magazines

    HCA Healthcare and Google Cloud are partnering to use data analytics and artificial intelligence along with patient information in a move they say will transform health care delivery and improve outcomes.

    It’s the latest step in the evolution of the fusion between health care and data.

    Prisma Health recently announced a partnership with Siemens Healthineers. And the Medical University of South Carolina has been working with Siemens Healthineers for years as well as Microsoft.

    Proponents say these arrangements benefit patients and providers alike. But they also raise concerns about the security of patient information.

    “What they’re doing is harnessing the power of big data to drive informed change and informed decision making,” said Dr. Christine Carr, an emergency physician and senior clinical advisor with the South Carolina Hospital Association.

    “Instead of a clinician on the floor saying, ‘I think this is the best way we should do our physician schedules or manage heart failure,’ we have so much data and analytic power now,” she told Integrated Media, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine. “It’s kind of like your iPhone, knowing where you’re going when you get in the car. We realize we have to get ahead of the disease.”

    If a patient has shortness of breath, for example, providers can use data tools to predict if he has a pulmonary embolism without doing any testing, Carr said. And if he does, other tools can help determine whether he should be admitted to the hospital or sent home on medication, she said.

    “The real power of using big data in health care is that it helps us deliver more efficient, high-quality care with fewer disparities,” adds Caroline Brown, chief of external affairs for MUSC and the Medical University Hospital Authority.

    “There is tremendous value in marrying disparate data that lives in different places to transform the way we deliver care. There are huge benefits for patients for this data to come together,” she said. “We can practice in a more preventive way than a reactive way.”

    But how accurate are these tools? Carr says they’re validated to a high degree of certainty so the clinician knows the risks.

    “They are extremely accurate,” she said, adding that doctors are still the ones making the decisions.  

    “It delivers information but you as a human have to ultimately decide what to do,” she said. “And any unique person is a unique person. Sometimes, I just override it. And sometimes I’m right. There are still humans, for now, at the end.”

    Another benefit of predictive analytics is lowering costs, Carr said.

    For instance, by analyzing a patient’s information, a doctor may determine that she only needs a mammogram every three years instead of annually, she said. And it can predict the risk of hospital readmissions too, she added, “which is a big financial driver for hospitals.”

    Carr speculates that all large health systems are getting into the predictive analytics space, adding that insurance companies have been using it for years to predict population health based on ZIP code, health history and socioeconomic factors.

    Founded in 1968, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is a for-profit system with some 2,000 care locations - including 186 hospitals - in 20 states and the United Kingdom.

    Google Cloud, which “aims to accelerate companies’ digital transformation,” says it has business customers in more than 200 countries.

    A spokesman for HCA said the company would have no comment beyond a press release and a Google spokeswoman did not return calls.

    But in that release, HCA CEO Sam Hazen said that “next-generation care demands data science-informed decision support so we can more sharply focus on safe, efficient and effective patient care.”

    And Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said, “The cloud can be an accelerant for innovation in health, particularly in driving data interoperability, which is critical in streamlining operations and providing better quality of care to improve patient outcomes.”

    Meanwhile, Adam Landau, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for HCA’s South Atlantic Division, said in an email that it’s too early to know what the partnership will mean for its South Carolina hospitals - Colleton Medical Center in Walterboro, Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach and Trident Health, which consists of Trident Medical Center in Charleston and Summerville Medical Center in Summerville.

    “I can tell you that we’re proud to be a part of HCA Healthcare,” he said. “In combination with significant investments in mobility to support clinical care … this partnership accelerates the work of HCA Healthcare clinicians, data scientists and developers by providing highly scalable technology from Google Cloud.”

    For example, he said, technology has been developed using predictive analytics that helps detect sepsis early, potentially saving lives. Another application uses clinical observations and ventilator-streamed data to reduce the length of stay for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and increase survival rates of Covid patients by 28 percent, he said.

    Brown said that health care is behind other consumer-driven industries in delivering on 21st century data technology.

    “One thing the … industry has been behind on is this whole consumer experience and digitalization of that over the last years,” she said. “Customers are expecting and demanding easier access to health care, they want to do so virtually from home, and in other formats that previously weren’t commonplace.”

    MUSC is using data analytics to help identify gaps in care, to map workflow so the system is more efficient, and to reduce wait times for patients, among other things, she said.

    A partnership with Medtronic uses more consistent monitoring technology in hospitalized patients to reduce the number of adverse respiratory events in patients prescribed opioids, she said. Another project aims to prevent hospitalizations by catching patients with heart failure and intervening earlier.

    MUSC also worked with Microsoft using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect and address potentially deadly sepsis in hospitalized patients, she said.

    Prisma said its 10-year partnership with Siemens will use AI to develop algorithms to help clinicians make more informed decisions, allowing for quicker and more precise diagnoses and treatment plans.

    Some of the AI will be embedded in new imaging machines as software while other AI will be developed through the partnership. Siemens will also have health economists on site studying new technologies to see if they reduce health care costs.

    But with a growing number of entities gaining access to patient information, just how secure are arrangements like these?

    Nationwide, the number of health information data breaches affecting 500 or more people grew from 329 in 2016 to 648 in 2020, with hacking events growing from 78 to 230 and ransomware attacks soaring from 36 to 199 during that time frame, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Ransomware is a multibillion-dollar industry, said James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    And hospitals make good targets because attackers are purely about the money and go after what will generate the most return, he added.

    “You can hack a hospital and make $4 million or hack an individual and make $4,000,” he said. “These guys like bulk business. Not onesies or twosies.”

    Most hospitals pay because it’s not worth the hassle, Lewis said.

    Some have insurance to cover ransomware attacks. But most attackers hone in on what they think the target can afford and go for that at the hospitals that are easier to breach, he said. And if they think the hospital can pay $4 million, they’ll start out asking for $6 million, he said.

    So moving to the cloud makes sense, Lewis said, because while it’s not impossible to hack, it is much more difficult and could be more secure. A lot depends on the terms of the contract, such as where the data will be stored and how it will limit the risk to privacy, he said.

    Both Google and HCA say their arrangement will protect patient privacy and data by using “layers of security controls and processes” and complying with federal privacy requirements.

    “The partnership is founded on strict guiding principles around privacy and security,” Landau said. “Our contract prohibits Google Cloud from the use of patient identifiable information.”

    Brown said MUSC also only uses deidentified patient data for its projects. That means information like names and addresses are removed but relevant clinical data remain, subject to privacy guide rails, she said.

    “Cybersecurity is a huge issue globally across all industries, and health care is no different,” she said. “Any arrangement … has to be done with utmost scrutiny to make sure patients are kept first, and commit to making sure they are protected.”

    A lot of the push for these types of relationships comes from hospitals looking to solve complex health care problems on a large scale, said MUSC chief information security officer Aaron Heath.

    Machine learning is helping to do that with the use of lots of data, he said, but when those two intersect, there has to be a mechanism to share the least amount of data necessary.

    At the end of the day, he said, a hospital doesn’t need to put patient privacy on the hook to solve its problems.

    “If we want to solve for sepsis in the hospital - detect it often and early and respond quickly - we don’t have to share patient data,” he said. “Hospitals are … only sharing the minimum amount of data to accomplish goals.”

    Nonetheless, he said, it’s not without risk and hospitals need to have contracts with digital companies that prevent data from being used for any other purpose.

    “There are a lot of controls we can take,” he said, “because it’s really important.”

    Prisma Health said that protecting patient privacy is critical and that it has multiple systems and checks in place to safeguard it.

    “As part of our Siemens Healthineers’ intelligent insights center, we will use de-identified, blinded patient data,” spokeswoman Sandy Dees said in a statement. “Under no circumstances will specific identifiers such as names, birth dates or addresses be used.”

    When it comes to ransomware, hospitals are in a tough position because they can’t stop business for an attack, said Heath. MUSC has layers of defense designed to mitigate the ransomware threat so if one is breached, another kicks in, he said.

    “You may not get hit by ransomware, but I can assure you your system is being targeted by phishing emails,” he said. “We are monitoring systems at all times to look for and flag potential phishing emails and get them out of our system because it’s such a common (and easy) avenue of attack. We have seen phishing emails come in to us intended to ultimately trigger an attack, but have caught them.”

    A significant problem in dealing with ransomware is that most attacks come from outside the U.S. and there’s a lack of international law enforcement to allay it, Heath said.

    “It’s a real challenge to stop this activity across the globe because it can be conducted from anywhere,” he said.

    So MUSC invests “quite a bit” in new technology and the staff to support it, he said. And the system is constantly monitoring security and conducting training because cybercrime is a moving target that requires frequent adjustments, he said.

    Still, Lewis said that ransomware “is not rocket science,” and that hospitals should be able to deal with it by backing up and encrypting data and spending more on IT to keep current.

    “A big cloud provider makes you more secure. It’s their business,” he said. “Hospitals - their business is patient care, and (those) that invest proactively are better able to protect data.”

    A federal health care cybersecurity task force established by HHS produced a report in 2017 that outlined ways to improve protection of health information, among them increasing the security and resilience of medical devices and health IT like electronic medical records; ensuring that the health care workforce prioritizes cybersecurity; and enhancing health care industry readiness through improved cybersecurity awareness and education.

    “It’s sad we have to do this,” Lewis said. “But it’s the world we’re in and we have to pay more attention.”

     September 10, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    SCBIO takes aim at growing the presence of women in the life sciences industry see more

    Compliments of Scribble

    While COVID-19 brought the life sciences industry squarely into the world’s spotlight, the industry has been growing rapidly around the globe — and here in South Carolina — for quite some time.  From gene editing and stem cell research to health data analytics and telemedicine, amazing advances in next generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health, bio-agriculture and more are reshaping our world, while also saving and improving lives.

    Life sciences in South Carolina are on a growth spurt accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry has doubled since 2017, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion and over 43,000 employees — even before COVID’s surge of growth.

    To fully realize the opportunity that life sciences represent for South Carolina, the Board of Directors of SCBIO have placed a priority on increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry here at home — with action replacing perfunctory policies. Those efforts are bearing fruit.  

    As the official life sciences industry organization for South Carolina, SCBIO has implemented a range of commitments, actions, and programs to encourage advancement for individual women and minorities, cultivate the next generations of female leaders, and strengthen and deepen the bench of talented women workers and leaders in organizations statewide.

    Among SCBIO’s numerous initiatives are:

    Leading by Example – Besides my role as Interim CEO, women comprise some 25% of SCBIO’s board of directors today, which is led by a female Board Chairman, Lou Kennedy, CEO and Founder of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. The Board has also launched a new Life Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to support leadership development of women and minorities. The 2021-2022 SCBIO Strategic Plan for SC Life Sciences has an entire section dedicated to encouraging expanded women and minority participation in the industry.

    Relationship Building – Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Chief External Affairs Officer for MUSC Caroline Brown, and Vikor Scientific’s Partner & Co-Founder Shea Harrelson are a few of many visible leaders actively encouraging young women to expand relationships across life sciences.  This network of women leaders is deep and growing, consisting of female leaders in education, manufacturing, logistics, research, medicine, government, economic development and more who reach out to support each other’s development, share ideas, problem solve and encourage skill growth.   

    Supporting Career Choice for Young Women – Life science jobs are not just for M.D.s and Ph.Ds, but for technical college graduates, engineers, and biology and chemistry majors as well. With an average life sciences position paying $79,000 here, SCBIO is promoting the industry as a career path to students, guidance counselors and parents at the K-12 and two- and four-year college levels.  It is also developing an industry-advocated curriculum for technical colleges covering industry prescribed manufacturing processes, safety and technical protocols, soft skills and more.  A recent statewide Young Women in Life Sciences ZOOM drew over 500 high school attendees from dozens of schools across the state to learn about careers in life sciences.

    Connecting Young Women – Via events and community outreach such as Virtual Meetups for women in the industry and a Women in Life Sciences Visit with our Lt. Governor, SCBIO is connecting women at all levels of life sciences organizations across the state to share information on career paths, leading teams, personal development, handling difficult conversations, encouraging innovation and more to help them connect and learn together — and encourage others they know to consider the industry as a career path.

    Establishing New Partnerships – New partnerships such as serving as Presenting Sponsor of Furman University’s Women’s Leadership Institute and providing scholarships at the BMW-SYNNEX 2021 Women’s Executive Luncheon create new opportunities to have life sciences as a visible part of the discussion.     

    Now more than ever, women in life sciences are leading the way to the industry’s rapid growth and expansion in South Carolina… and around the world.  Here at home, SCBIO is working to inspire women of all ages to choose, grow and thrive in this dynamic industry by relying on, inspiring and supporting each other to attain even greater levels of success.

    The future is bright and getting even brighter as more women step up to lead the way to a brighter tomorrow.

     September 08, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    More than $19 million in grants to several key connected health projects see more

    Compliments of mHealth Intelligence

    The federal government is investing more than $19 million in key telehealth initiatives, including the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) and Telehealth Centers of Excellence (COE) program.

    Some 36 awards are being distributed by the Health and Human Services Department through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to some of the nation’s highest-profile connected health projects. The investments are aimed at strengthening programs and supporting innovation in areas that have seen record adoption and growth during the pandemic.

    “Telehealth expands access to care and is a vital tool for improving health equity by providing timely clinical assessment and treatment for our most vulnerable populations,” HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa said in a press release issued this morning. “This funding will help drive the innovation necessary to build clinical networks, educational opportunities, and trusted resources to further advance telehealth.”

    The TRC consortium, which consists of 12 regional and two national centers, is getting $4.55 million – or $325,000 per site - to bolster and expand their efforts. The TRCs, which provide a wide range of guidance and resources, have seen heavy traffic over the past year and a half as healthcare providers and other organizations have adopted telehealth to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Telehealth COE program, meanwhile, is getting $6.5 million to expand services and strategies aimed at improving access and outcomes in underserved parts of the country that deal with high chronic care needs and poverty, and to serve as incubators for new telehealth ideas. Located in academic medical centers, COEs are seen as national models for evidence-based programs and strategies that promote best practices.

    In 2017, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) were designated Telehealth Centers of Excellence. The award is being split between the two programs.

    The Evidence-Based Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth Network Program (EB-TNP) is getting roughly $3.8 million to bolster its DTC telehealth efforts. Those awards are being issued to 11 organizations: HealthHIE Georgia, Cornerstone Whole Healthcare in Idaho, Drake University in Iowa, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Baptist Health Foundation Corbin in Kentucky, MaineHealth, UMMC, Lester E. Cox Medical University in Missouri, the Ben Archer Health Center in New Mexico, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Texas A&M University.

    Finally, the Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP) is getting about $4.28 million to “help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.”

    Those awards are going to nine organizations: Community Health Center in Connecticut, the American Academy of Pediatrics in Illinois, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Medical Care Development in Maine, the JSI Research and Training Institute in Massachusetts, President and Fellows of Harvard College in Massachusetts, the University of New Mexico, Oregon Health & Science University and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Exciting new development from MUSC co-founded technology see more

    SpheroFill, a company co-founded by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researcher William Hill, Ph.D., is helping to convert swords into plowshares with more than a quarter million dollars in funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer grant. Hill is a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MUSC and a research scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

    Hill and SpheroFill are developing microsphere technology to create a unique oral drug delivery platform that will allow for protected, controlled release of drugs over time. The microsphere technology was originally created for strategic purposes by the Department of Energy at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and then converted for civilian purposes by the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Aiken, South Carolina. 

    The other co-founders of SpheroFill are George Wicks, Ph.D., of ARC, and ENT-otolaryngologist  Paul Weinberger, M.D. Wicks co-invented the microsphere technology while at the SRNL. Together with MUSC and ARC, the three inventors have submitted a patent on the oral and other drug delivery approaches.

    Hill, who serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, is excited about the collaboration between SpheroFill, MUSC and ARC.

    “The Applied Research Center is a nonprofit research and development organization established to transfer technology from the SRNL and academic institutions and to assist start-up companies where possible,” explained Hill. “It is the value of the taxpayers’ investment being amplified into novel uses that can create new jobs and expand the economy of South Carolina. ARC’s goal is to build a technology base in Aiken County and the state. Importantly, ARC has been a key initial investor for us.”  

    The microspheres are hollow spheres with a large cargo capacity contained by a porous silica glass outer shell. Complex nanoscale channels connect the interior cargos with the outside world. 

    “A microsphere is about a third the diameter of a human hair,” said Hill. “You can actually load the microspheres with different cargos, drugs in this case, and then control the release rate of materials coming out of them.”

    Once in the body, the microspheres will release the drug as the outer coating degrades and the nanopores open. The technology could help pharmaceutical companies overcome a serious hurdle in developing oral drugs. Drugs taken by mouth often break down in the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal system. 

    “The pharmaceutical industry has a large number of drugs that are difficult to deliver orally – either because they don't dissolve very well in the aqueous system that we have in our gastrointestinal tract, or because they are very reactive and will be broken down very quickly by enzymes there,” said Hill. 

    By encasing the drugs, the microspheres protect them from this harsh environment and enable them to reach their target locations, where they release their contents. As a result, less drug is wasted, which is a savings for both pharmaceutical companies and consumers. This will be particularly important with expensive drugs and newer sensitive biological drugs.

    The technology not only allows more efficient delivery of existing oral drugs, but it also makes possible the oral delivery of new types of drugs. 

    “There is also an ability to deliver drugs in ways that they never could have been delivered before, such as in gaseous form” said Hill. “We're trying to develop new ways to deliver agents that aren't really drugs now because they're just too difficult to use as drugs.”

    Hill is excited by the possibilities. With the technology, he speculates that insulin could be delivered orally instead of injected under the skin. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which typically affect the entire body, could be released directly into a tumor, helping to spare healthy tissue. 

    The technology could also help patients with better medication compliance. Many drugs, such as antibiotics, must be taken daily over several days. When patients begin feeling better, they may discontinue taking the medication prematurely, leading to drug resistance and other problems. 

    “SpheroFill allows patients to have effective drug dosing over extended time, so the patient only has to take the drug once or possibly twice,” said Hill.

    At MUSC, Hill’s research team is working on testing different polymers that can serve as coatings for the microspheres, with the aim of having different drug-release rates with different coatings, ranging from days to months.  

    “The cool thing is that you can have microspheres with different thicknesses of coatings or entirely different coatings, which will release materials at different rates,” said Hill. “And we can mix them together to have overlapping or sequential releases of the same or different drugs for an extended period of time,” said Hill. 

    The team is working on controlling drug release by measuring release rates for different coatings. Once Hill and his team complete this step, they will next study how well the microspheres with the different coatings work as a drug-delivery platform, first in animals and then in humans.

    Hill believes that the support from the NSF is an important milestone for Spherofill and is grateful to the MUSC Foundation for Research Development for its help with the application. 

    “It’s exciting to get this stamp of approval from the NSF,” said Hill. This hard-to-acquire support says that it believes the technology and the company are worth the investment to help with technical development and assistance through its strong commercialization infrastructure. This will also help to open doors for us to partners and customers.” 

    In addition to improving drug delivery, SpheroFill and its partners also hope to support the South Carolina economy by bringing research and development, high-tech and pharmaceutical jobs to Charleston, Aiken and other areas of the state.  

    U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson see that economic potential.

    “The funding will allow SpheroFill to create advancements in the medical field, and I appreciate NSF working to help turn this into a reality,” said Graham.

    Wilson, too, acknowledged the NSF’s generous funding of SpheroFill’s valuable collaboration.

    “The synergy between SpheroFill, the Applied Research Center and the Savannah River National Laboratory has allowed this research to gain momentum, providing transformative opportunities in medical treatments,” said Wilson. “I am grateful that NSF recognized and rewarded the talent here in our community.”

     

    About the Medical University of South Carolina 

    Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

    As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 2,000 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 eleven hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Fairfield, Florence, Kershaw, Lancaster and Richland counties. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.

    MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.6 billion. The more than 20,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.