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 email@example.com.
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.
South Carolina's fastest-growing industry stars in new SCBIZ Magazine features see more
The 14-page feature spanned four stories, from the trends driving the rapid growth of life sciences in South Carolina, to major advances in life science research happening here at home. A fabulous story on how SCBIO and life sciences organizations are working to close the workforce gap is also included, as well as an industry salute for our role in helping America emerge from COVID. It's a tremendous section.
Over 20 organizations are featured in stories, and nearly as many industry leaders from across SC are quoted in articles, enriched with photos, industry data on segments and market penetration, and more.
More than two years in the making by the SCBIO team who worked with SCBIZ to bring this first-ever magazine feature on the industry to life, SCBIZ intends to build on this year's momentum and do another life sciences feature next Summer. READ THE ENTIRE SECTION HERE!
Nephron Pharmaceuticals continues on rapid growth curve... see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals’ expansion is progressing as production gets underway on a spate of new business ventures — from at-home COVID-19 test kits to chemotherapy drugs.
Since 2020, the West Columbia drug maker has invested $215 million to build out its campus in Lexington County’s Saxe Gotha Industrial Park. In the past month, the company hired 1,500 new part-time workers as it ramps up production of new product lines, CEO Lou Kennedy said, bringing it to 1,200 full-time employees and 2,500 part-timers.
The hiring spree comes as Nephron produced 30 million doses of reagent for Abbott Laboratories’ at-home COVID-19 test kits last month and assembled about 1 million kits. Kennedy hopes to increase kit production to 2 million per month in January as demand for them has skyrocketed amid new variants of the deadly virus.
Bobby Hitt, Humimic Medical, Nephron, Spangler Honored at 2021 South Carolina Manufacturing ConferenceSC Life Science honorees prominent at state's major manufacturing conference see more
Former South Carolina Secretary of Commerec Bobby Hitt was presented Human Technologies Inc. Lifetime Achievement Award today at the annual SCMEP Salute to Manufacturing Awards luncheon that caps off the S.C. Manufacturing Conference and Expo.
The award winners were announced during a special luncheon following the two-day conference and a keynote address by Gov. Henry McMaster. The governor helped present the awards along with Rick Jenkins, group publisher of SC Biz News.
Hitt served as secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce from the time he was appointed by former governor Nikki Haley until his retirement earlier this year. A former journalist, his work in economic development began when he went to work for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, where he played a role in recruiting BMW Manufacturing to Spartanburg County and subsequently became one of the first BMW employees. He served as manager of public affairs for the plant until his appointment to the Commerce Department. Much of the department’s focus during his tenure was on recruiting manufacturers to the Palmetto State and growing those companies already here. Secretary Hitt was also inducted into the SC Life Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.
Jenkins announced that, starting with next year’s Salute to Manufacturing luncheon, the award for lifetime achievement will be named for Chuck Spangler, the late executive director of the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Spangler and SCMEP annually played a significant role in the overall conference and the awards ceremony.
“It’s appropriate to name the lifetime achievement award in Chuck’s memory because he dedicated so much of his life to the service of manufacturing — to raising the industry to higher standards and bringing the rest of the state up with it,” Jenkins said. “It didn’t feel the same hosting this year’s conference without him, but the impression he and his colleagues at SCMEP made for this industry will not soon be forgotten.”
SCMEP plays a key role in the conference, offering training courses to help make manufacturers better.
“Every year from the stage I said manufacturers in this state have no better friend than Chuck and SCMEP, and I meant it,” Jenkins said.
Other awards presented during the conference’s capstone luncheon included:
- Emerging Manufacturer of the Year Awards went to Samsung Electronics Home Appliances America LLC and Advanced Metalworks LLC. Alimex Precision in Aluminum was a finalist in the category.
- Humimic Medical was named Innovator of the Year. Finalists for the honor were Stanley Black & Decker and Nucor Steel.
- The Outreach Award was taken home by South Atlantic Canners while Komatsu America Corp. and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC were recognized as finalists.
- Smart Move New Plant Awards were given to Leisure Pools and Spas, Mark Anthony Brewing and Niagara Bottling. The honor recognizes those companies that chose South Carolina over other locations to invest in new facilities.
- Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., Santa Cruz Nutritionals and Techtronic Industries received the Smart Move SC Expansion Award. The award recognizes companies already in South Carolina that chose to spend their growth resources in the state by expanding locally.
Pleasurecraft Engine Group won the Transformation and Operational Excellence Award. Intertape Polymer Group and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC were finalists in the category.
Apprenticeship program paying dividends for Nephron see more
Five graduates have completed Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp.’s 2021 Pharmacy Technician Apprentice Program with the highest grade point average and completion rate in the history of the program, started in January 2018.
The class’s completion rate of 100% and its GPA of more than 3.5 set records for the program, a partnership between Nephron and Midlands Technical College.
"We could not be more excited about this bright group of future pharmacy technicians,” Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said in a news release. “They demonstrated precisely the kind of hard work, determination and attention to detail it takes to excel in an increasingly competitive professional field. We look forward to watching them as they flourish into the industry leaders of tomorrow.”
The program marked Nephron’s first official apprenticeship through Apprenticeship Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. Students are enrolled in MTC’s seven-month pharmacy technician certification program.
Each Nephron employee will continue to work full time while completing the MTC program, with all educational costs paid by Nephron, according to the release.
The 2021 Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship class members are:
- Yulander Brown
- Hannelore Ignacio
- Sha’Keela Shiggs
- Gabriela Solla
- Michelle Whetstone
Nephron steps up to help state's most vulnerable see more
As children ages 5 to 11 become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation has announced the opening of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic at its vaccination drive-thru in West Columbia. The clinic is open Monday – Friday from 12:00 PM – 5:30 PM.
Nephron, in partnership with Dominion Energy South Carolina, launched a convenient drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site earlier this year. The drive-thru is located on Dominion Energy property off of I-77 at Exit 2. In addition to providing the space for a drive-thru, Dominion Energy is also generously contributing power and logistics support.
As a part of its ongoing efforts to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nephron offers Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations to citizens, including those ages 5 to 11, who are eligible. This includes regular doses and boosters for adults, during regular hours, which remain Monday – Friday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
Nephron registered nurses and pharmacists are administering vaccinations, with assistance from Nephron CLIA-certified diagnostics lab employees.
COVID-19 tests are also available as a part of the drive-thru. Nephron established a diagnostics lab last year in order to conduct COVID-19 tests. Since opening the lab, Nephron has tested thousands of people across the state for COVID-19 – including employees, students, educators, athletes and families – as the company does its part to keep South Carolina healthy and safe during the public health crisis. The Nephron CLIA-certified lab procured state-of-the-art technology for COVID-19 real-time PCR testing and serological antibody testing. Results are delivered within 24-48 hours.
SCBIO Names Louisiana Economic Development Executive James Chappell as CEO to Lead State’s Fastest-Growing IndustryGoal to “take South Carolina life sciences to an entirely new level” see more
Following a nationwide search that targeted 200 candidates in 39 states and resulted in 116 total applications from across the country, the Board of Directors of SCBIO has named James Chappell, an executive with Louisiana Economic Development, as the organization’s new President and Chief Executive Officer.
Dr. Chappell, whose career also includes time with Chartic Management Consulting in Boston, joined Louisiana Economic Development (LED) in 2013 and held positions of increasing responsibility at the organization including Executive Director of State Economic Competitiveness before being named Executive Director of Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship for the organization in 2021.
During his tenure at LED, Dr. Chappell’s numerous successes included designing and implementing the state’s $100 million venture capital and small business funds, developing strategies to recruit globally recognized companies to the state , and joining the Louisiana MediFund board to develop strategies to increase the biosciences and healthcare industries in Louisiana. He also collaborated with bioscience and technology advocates to improve incentives to promote growth in the bioscience and technology industries.
Dr Chappell earned his B.S. and M.S. in Plant Environmental Sciences from Clemson University, his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Stem Cell Biology focusing on cancer and diabetes from Harvard Medical School. A three-year varsity football letterman while at Clemson, he is married with two children. He will begin his new role with SCBIO starting November 8, 2021.
“SCBIO and South Carolina life sciences are excited to welcome James to lead this dynamic and forward-looking industry organization, and to help our hundreds of life sciences companies and thousands of employees and innovators take it to an entirely new level,” said Lou Kennedy, Board Chair of SCBIO and founder and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, and a member of the search committee. “Competition for the position was extremely strong but we unanimously felt that his credentials in both life sciences and economic development were the precise mix we sought as we continue to build, advance and grow the industry in South Carolina.”
Life sciences has a $12 billion economic impact in the Palmetto State, with more than 700 firms involved and over 43,000 professionals employed in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental, and agricultural biotechnology products. It also represents a significant economic development focus for the state, led by the South Carolina Department of Commerce and other regional economic development teams.
South Carolina life sciences has seen a near-doubling of firms and 40% increase in life sciences’ direct employment since 2017, which combine to make it the fastest growing industry sector in the state, according to data provided by Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, state research economist and noted economic development expert with the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
“As a South Carolina native, I am thrilled to join SCBIO and return home. South Carolina has become an emerging leader in life sciences, and I am excited to continue SCBIO’s great work in helping to grow the life sciences industry,” noted Dr. Chappell.
Ms. Kennedy went on to thank SCBIO Interim CEO Erin Ford for her critical contributions in leading the organization during the search process, which began in May with the resignation of prior CEO Sam Konduros.
“Erin continued to do a strong and stellar job in leading the organization, charting the path, and maintaining the momentum without missing a beat during this national search, and our board and membership are grateful to her. The entire board and SCBIO membership are excited that she will remain a key part of the organization in her prior role of Executive Vice President and COO to add a steady and experienced hand to crafting an exciting new future.”
Ms. Ford has served as primary lead for SCBIO’s business operations and finances, championing investor relations and existing industry strategies, and spearheading integrated marketing initiatives. She has managed the majority of the organization’s day-to-day requirements since joining SCBIO in 2017.
Since 2017, SCBIO has more than tripled membership and quadrupled revenues, implemented a strong economic development focus, and launched a new innovation platform. It serves as the voice of the life sciences industry, implemented a surging workforce development initiative and created ongoing programs to encourage participation by women in life sciences, to support diversity-equity-inclusion initiatives and to encourage student participation in the industry. The organization also successfully led industry and organizational pivots during the COVID pandemic. In a recent executive order, Governor Henry McMaster authorized SCBIO and the state’s Commerce Department to work together to accelerate the onshoring and repatriation of the pharmaceutical industry and vital PPE products and technologies to South Carolina.
For additional information on SCBIO, please visit www.SCBIO.org.
Start Central is the Central SC Region’s go-to resource for connecting workers with opportunities see more
Compliments of Midlands Biz
The Central SC Alliance (CSCA) unveiled a new tool to connect skilled workers and local employers. Start Central is a comprehensive website where individuals from inside and outside the Central SC Region can search for job opportunities, access resources on training programs to boost their skills, and learn about the benefits of living in the Region.
“It’s been a project of passion over the past year for our team to bring this website to life. We saw a gap in how the Central SC Region was fairing in the highly competitive market of skilled talent attraction and retention. This new site provides job seekers an opportunity to bridge that gap by obtaining the careers in our Region that they’ve been dreaming of and enhancing their appeal to employers by upgrading their skill sets. It’s also another way we can support our local existing industries in drawing in skilled talent,” says Tracy McMillin, Central SC Alliance Interim President and CEO.
The website spans a range of topics aimed at helping both locals and non-natives explore the potential available to them in the heart of South Carolina. Major features include:
- Regional-focused jobs and internships searches
- Upskilling resources for students and existing workers of targeted industries
- Startup aid for tech companies and entrepreneurs
- Resources for Military members and Veterans
- Ambassador testimonials
- News about regional jobs and training
The site also highlights the livability of the Region with profiles on the Region’s nine communities, details on local entertainment and attractions, links to charitable and volunteering opportunities, and an interactive cost of living calculator.
“We want visitors to take away a little piece of what we love about the Central SC Region and use that information to decide that this is the destination for them. Some people may think of the coast or mountains when you first ask them about South Carolina – but this area has an underrated allure,” McMillin explains. “We are surrounded by natural beauty with many of our communities interwoven with watery and wooded retreats right outside their doors. The cost of living makes it possible to not just work for a living but to enjoy the money you earn. And we have some of the world’s best-known brand names creating career opportunities in nearly every field.”
Access to an available and skilled workforce is a constant need of companies. Spanning eight counties – Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg and Richland – and the state’s capital city of Columbia, the Central SC Region is home to popular brands like Amazon, Samsung, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), Capgemini, BlueCross BlueShield of SC, and Target. Over recent years, the Region has become a hub for startups and entrepreneurs such as Zverse, Vän Robotics, Cognito Forms, Proof Alcohol Ice Cream, guHRoo, and more. These operations along with more than 1,000 other facilities employ more than a quarter million workers; and as their facilities grow, so does the importance of access to workers with supporting talents and skills.
Matt Vaadi, CEO of the Columbia-area HR software and solutions company guHRoo (formerly ERG Payroll), has found success in accessing talent for his company through diligence and dedication to the extensive network of local resources.
“The talent pool in Central SC and the surrounding area is deeper than people realize,” he explains. “Between the universities, the large technology companies, and the people relocating to the area, you can find exactly what you are looking for if you put in the work. We focus most of our recruiting efforts on hiring local talent and upskilling where necessary because we believe in the local talent density.”
Collaborative partnerships with businesses in the Region, and those with technical training facilities, colleges and universities, governing bodies, and more, have become an indispensable action-driven network in economic development growth opportunities. These connections played an important role throughout the creation of Start Central.
“This site has kicked off so many new connections and collaborative opportunities, and we are excited to see what else lies ahead and how we can grow and change together to amplify the mission of this Region,” says McMillin.
To see what Start Central has to offer and to start exploring the benefits of the Central SC Region, visit startcentralsc.org.
About Start Central & the Central South Carolina Alliance
Start Central is an initiative of the Central SC Alliance (CSCA) to support existing industries of the Central SC Region in their need to recruit and retain skilled talent. Connect with Start Central on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Located in the heart of South Carolina, the Central SC Alliance (CSCA) is a full-service professional economic development alliance focused on cultivating economic advancement and enrichment in the communities of the Central SC Region. Founded in 1994 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit partnership, the CSCA is the Region’s lead economic development alliance representing eight member counties and the state’s capital city – Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland counties and the City of Columbia.
Nephron went looking for a way to automate syringe-filling for small batch manufacturing, found more see more
t’s no secret that working long hours in a cleanroom environment can be grueling. The bunny suits can get sweltering and the hours doing monotonous tasks can drag. On top of that, staffing cleanroom techs for an around-the-clock operation can be a major challenge for pharma companies.
With the hope of overcoming these issues, South Carolina-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals recently went looking for a way to automate syringe-filling for small batch manufacturing and turned to the brainpower nearby.
Within the University of South Carolina, the Office of Innovation, Partnerships, and Economic Engagement (OIPEE) provides a way for companies to engage with students and faculty to solve vexing industry problems.
“The university can bring a client in, and we’ll create a solution for that client with advanced manufacturing,” Bill Kirkland, executive director of OIPEE, explains.
For Nephron, that solution was robotics. After striking up a partnership, students and researchers from UofSC eventually innovated a new automated syringe-filling system that utilizes flexible, high-speed robots provided by Yaskawa Motoman and processing power developed by Siemens. According to Kirkland, the system’s robotic arm that works under a single hood is part of what makes it unique. It was also designed specifically for small-batch operations, and importantly for Nephron, the new technology will help eliminate manufacturing downtime.
“We have a workforce issue in that we have lots of trained sterile pharma techs, but expecting them to show up every shift 24/7 is challenging,” Lou Kennedy, CEO of Nephron, says. “So, for example, if someone calls in sick, this allows us to do many steps using robotics, and it keeps us from having to shut down.”
Although there are other robotic syringe-filling solutions on the market, Kennedy says she has never seen a system as small and nimble as the one built by UofSC.
“It operates underneath a flow hood in a cleanroom and that’s important because we are working with injectables,” Kennedy says. “And it’s compact and can move from one cleanroom to another.”
After the technology was developed, the system was installed in a Nephron facility earlier this year, where Kennedy says the company is perfecting the tech and it is being commercially validated. Once they find the manufacturing “sweet spot” and it wins regulatory approval, the companies plan to license and commercialize the technology. Ultimately, the plan is to target biopharma facilities and hospitals in need of small-batch manufacturing solutions.
“By virtue of its previous relationships with Yaskawa and Siemens, UofSC faculty and OIPEE pitched this solution to Nephron, who agreed to bear some of the initial cost of setting up the research facility in the McNAIR [Aerospace] Center,” Kirkland said in a statement this spring. “All three companies, as well as the university, will benefit greatly from the introduction of this system into the commercial space.”
In addition to being a boon for the Nephron, the collaboration also showcased how industry partnerships can be a stepping stone for engineering and manufacturing students — including those who were not considering a career in pharma before. According to Kirkland, one of the students involved in the collaboration went on to score a job at Siemens, and another did the same at Nephron.
“Partnerships like this one are a win for patients, employees and students, not to mention for companies like ours, that continue to grow and expand our capacity to help others,” Kennedy said in a statement this spring.
South Carolina and National executive address what's next for South Carolina as we battle COVID. see more
On September 9, 2021 SCBIO hosted a statewide webinar program entitled "COVID-19 and South Carolina: What's Next?". The program was attended by a large audience across South Carolina, including business leaders, healthcare executives, elected officials, and regional media.
BIO’s Phyllis Arthur, Nephron Pharmaceutical’s Lou Kennedy and VCOM’s Matt Cannon shared their views on what obstacles we have to overcome to get through this latest surge, using science as the foundation. This discussion also addressed the science, data and real life experiences confronting us all as we manage our response to the Delta Variant of COVID-19. It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss if you aren’t sure about vaccines, antibodies, masks and more.
Top executives opine on what's next for SC as Covid surges see more
After attending a Chamber of Commerce breakfast where a hospital CEO ticked off statistics about the number of unvaccinated patients suffering from Covid – many in their 20s and 30s – Nephron Pharmaceuticals CEO Lou Kennedy decided something had to be done.
So she mandated vaccination at her company and today, everyone at the West Columbia business, which manufactures generic respiratory products, has had the shot, she said. And she lost just 30 out of 2,000 employees over the decision.
“It was the right thing to do, and I encourage my fellow business leaders to follow suit,” Kennedy said. “Somebody had to be the first to do it, and why not make it us.”
In addition, Kennedy said, the company spent $2.5 million last year on people being out of work and overtime to cover them – money that could have been spent on innovation, such as the mask the company introduced for patients getting nebulizer treatments that protects the health care provider from respiratory droplets.
Kennedy spoke at an online event hosted by SC BIO, the Palmetto State’s life sciences group, to discuss what comes next in the pandemic.
South Carolina is still lagging in vaccinations, said SC BIO interim CEO Erin Ford, with Covid deaths on the rise.
By Sept. 7, just 49 percent of residents had been fully vaccinated, and 58 percent had had at least one shot, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Meanwhile, nearly 780,000 cases had been confirmed by that date and 11,050 South Carolinians had died, DHEC reports.
But the number of vaccinations is slowly rising, Ford said, offering some hope that things will turn around.
The full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine pushed some people to get vaccinated in recent weeks, said Phyllis Arthur, vice president of infectious diseases and diagnostic policy at BIO Global, the world’s largest advocacy association representing member companies, state biotechnology groups, academic and research institutions.
But many are rolling up their sleeves after seeing how the Delta variant left loved ones sick and dying, she said.
“Delta is nearly twice as contagious as the previous variants,” she said. “And … (it) moved so quickly and spread so fast we saw a giant spike in cases and deaths. When immunization numbers go up, we will see cases come down.”
The speakers agreed that the greatest obstacle to making progress in the fight against the virus is the politicization of the pandemic and misinformation.
“There’s no R or D in the word science. It has nothing to do with your favorite politician,” said Kennedy. “This is science.”
Arthur said people should beware of misinformation and trust the scientists who’ve done the work on the virus.
“One of the things I ask people to do is look at the source of what you’re reading and hearing,” she said. “Look at the data yourself. It’s all publicly available and it’s very transparent.
And Dr. Matthew Cannon, dean of the Carolinas Campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, agreed.
“(It’s) being politicized, in my opinion, and I just hope people would look at it objectively, not through partisanship,” he said. “This is a public health crisis.”
Cannon said that as of Sept. 7, one Upstate hospital had 278 Covid patients and all but 25 were unvaccinated. Another had 566 Covid patients and all but 41 were unvaccinated. The average age of the vaccinated patients was 75 to 78, he said, and they were immunocompromised. The average age of the unvaccinated patients was 50, he said.
Though breakthrough cases occasionally occur among the vaccinated, Arthur said they typically are milder and of shorter duration.
She said she expects FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children younger than 12 in the next month or so and the Moderna vaccine in the next few months.
Kennedy said her antibody level dropped from 6,900 to 3,800 in recent weeks and is watching to see when the booster is approved.
There are still two steps to go before a booster is approved for the general population, but that it could come in a matter of weeks, Arthur said.
And Cannon said the college is working on research to determine when boosters should be given, noting the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been around for years.
Arthur added that the mRNA technology will be able to be used for many vaccines and even disease treatments.
“You can speed the next product, and that can allow us to have many more innovations from the treatment perspective and the vaccine perspective,” she said. “It’s the same for monoclonal antibodies. And that will ripple through the industry for years to come.”
Cannon said he’s proud of the health care workers who are surrounded by contagious Covid patients putting them and their families at risk, but continue to step up every day for the greater good of the community.
Nonetheless, he said, he worries about the stress they endure, seeing so much loss and knowing it could be prevented.
Meanwhile, he said, although medical residents got the experience of learning how to work in the midst of a pandemic - something their predecessors never had - they are missing out on some hands-on training because hospitals are canceling elective procedures.
Kennedy said the employees who refused vaccination weren’t willing to listen to the science. And while she got lots of phone calls asking whether there were protests in the street about her mandate, it all went smoothly.
“There were a couple people grumbling in the plant,” she said, “but it amounted to much ado about nothing.”
All the speakers encouraged everyone to be vaccinated and wear masks.
“It will prevent you from giving the virus to someone else,” said Cannon, “or from them giving it to you.”
“We’re in this together,” said Arthur, “and we can get out of it together.”
SCBIO takes aim at growing the presence of women in the life sciences industry see more
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.
Once again, Lou Kennedy and Nephron step up for South Carolina see more
A South Carolina-based pharmaceutical manufacturer that has offered coronavirus vaccines to the public and run thousands of COVID-19 tests throughout the pandemic will now require all of its employees to get inoculated.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is mandating that all of the company’s nearly 2,000 workers be fully vaccinated or have started a two-dose vaccine series by Aug. 27, unless the employee has “an exemption or reasonable accommodation,” according to CEO Lou Kennedy.
The company is one of the first major businesses in South Carolina, other than hospitals, to publicly declare such a directive. Details of the requirement were shared with The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Monday.
“As COVID-19 cases, driven by the deadly serious Delta variant, continue to impact communities and businesses alike, we can be one of the first businesses of our size to have a fully-vaccinated workforce,” Kennedy wrote in a company-wide letter.
Kennedy told reporters that employees who are not vaccinated by the deadline and can’t provide a medical or religious exemption will be fired, and she isn’t worried about lawsuits.
“I’ll be very sad if we lose even the first person,” Kennedy said. “I hate that, but we’ve got to do what is right, to keep us healthy so we can keep others healthy.”
Nephron, which makes a number of drugs used to treat COVID-19 patients, is also mandating all visitors, vendors and guests be fully vaccinated. Those who need the shots can get them from Nephron itself, which has run a vaccine site in West Columbia since February.
The company is still compiling data on how many of its workers are vaccinated.
A growing number of hospitals around the state, including the Medical University of South Carolina and Tidelands, have made vaccination a requirement for health care employees. Prisma Health, South Carolina’s largest hospital system, has offered incentives to staffers instead, news outlets have reported.
The Nephron announcement comes as vaccine rates continue to lag. Less than half of eligible South Carolinians were fully vaccinated as of last week, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Although most businesses in the state have yet to implement such requirements, the resurgence of the virus with the highly contagious delta variant has prompted many to consider a mandate, S.C. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan told The Associated Press on Monday.
More and more businesses will likely require employees to be vaccinated, following Nephron’s lead and the expected full approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration later this fall, Morgan said: “Momentum is growing.”
Lawmakers in the South Carolina Senate did approve a proposal that would prevent employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for workers earlier this year. That measure still awaits House action.
Lou Kennedy authors a perspective every South Carolina resident should read see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. manufactures lifesaving medications that help people breathe. In the midst of a pandemic, it is more critical than ever that our team stays healthy, so we can keep patients healthy.
This was one reason we stayed motivated over the past year to step up for our community, state and nation to aid the response to COVID-19. When the opportunity arose for Nephron to partner with Dominion Energy South Carolina and launch a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru, we embraced it — just as many of our employees, myself included, jumped at the chance to be vaccinated.
It was the least we could do to help keep South Carolina’s recovery on track. After all, we have been proud of the way our state, guided by Gov. Henry McMaster, has led. We struck the right balance between public health and economic prosperity. We never closed down, and we avoided many of the problems neighboring states have battled.
However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lag our state — and, frankly, our company — has seen in citizens being vaccinated. The initial enthusiasm for getting vaccinated has given way to hesitancy. I want to change that. I hope my colleagues around the business community will join me in the effort.
Why is it important to me for the people of South Carolina, the employees of our company and workers everywhere to get vaccinated?
After a year of masks and mandates, viruses and virtual meetings, I am tired of having the economy impacted, and recreation curtailed, by concerns that interacting with people could lead to long-term health challenges, such as those associated with COVID-19. I agree with our governor: We do not need new restrictions in South Carolina. It is time to return to normal — for good.
I also believe in science. As the CEO of one of the fastest-growing pharmaceuticals manufacturers in the country, I work with dozens of brilliant scientists. We know there are real concerns about contracting COVID-19 and the new, dangerous strains of the virus cropping up around the world.
If we truly want to return to normal, and do so in a permanent way, then there is no alternative to getting vaccinated. Luckily, in South Carolina, there are countless places where vaccines are available. Come to the Nephron drive-thru vaccination location (in West Columbia) and get your shot. There is no charge. Or contact the state Department of Health and Environmental Control about where to get vaccinated. Again, there is no charge.
Do you own a business? Give your employees incentives to get the shot. We did. Employees who received the vaccine by a certain date at Nephron were entered into a drawing to receive free paid time off. This was a win-win — for workers, it was a chance to earn a meaningful prize, and for the company, it meant a safer and healthier work environment.
Nephron employees who still have not been vaccinated are required to wear masks. Like other critical health care and manufacturing facilities, Nephron is a place too many people depend on for us to risk a widespread outbreak of any virus. What we hope is that we can encourage enough of our employees to get vaccinated that we do not have to consider additional mandates or more serious measures in response to unvaccinated employees.
Vaccinations remain one of the surest ways each of us can do the right thing — by our friends, families, state and nation — during these unprecedented days. If you have not been vaccinated, I hope you will join me and get the shot. Each of us can contribute to the health and safety of our companies and our country. Doing so may mean the difference between keeping the place where you work open and seeing it closed — not to mention the difference between life and death.
Lou Kennedy is CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation and a Lexington resident.
Lou Kennedy and Nephron Team step up for SC again see more
Glove Plant Will Shore Up Domestic Supply Chain, Reduce American Dependence on Foreign Sources of Medical-Grade Gloves & Create New Jobs
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. – During a celebration attended by strategic partners, business leaders and public officials, Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation CEO Lou Kennedy and Governor Henry McMaster today announced the opening of Nephron Nitrile, a plant that will produce American-made, medical-grade nitrile gloves.
The announcement is the latest Nephron expansion on the sprawling company campus located at Saxe-Gotha Industrial Park in Lexington County.
Nephron Nitrile – which will be headquartered in more than 400,000 square feet of space in the Kennedy Innovation Complex – represents an investment of more than $100 million in the Midlands. The plant will generate 250 jobs for the area.
“This is a historic day for our company, and, we believe, for South Carolina,” said Kennedy. “Over the course of the last year, we have poured every bit of creativity, energy and resources we have at our disposal into doing our part, as a proud Made-in-America manufacturer, to respond to an unprecedented crisis. Nephron Nitrile is the latest part of our ongoing effort to make South Carolina the nationwide example for effectively responding to America’s needs, this time by shoring up the domestic supply chain.”
Kennedy and the governor, along with the entire Nephron team, have made reducing the American dependence on foreign sources of critical health care-related items, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medications, a top priority. Kennedy joined the governor in April when he announced an executive order to safeguard South Carolina from supply chain disruptions, such as those caused by countries like China, experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic by working to manufacture even more essential, life-saving products in South Carolina.
Now, just months later, Kennedy and her team at Nephron are stepping up once again. In doing the work on the front end of the announcement to secure partnerships with trusted companies to provide raw materials, machinery and technology, Nephron is in position to make a significant difference in bolstering the PPE supply chain by early 2022.
“It is critical that South Carolina lead the charge in bringing the production of life-saving medications and supplies back home to the United States,” said Governor McMaster. “After last year’s supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I announced a new initiative aimed at expanding recruitment efforts of pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers in the Palmetto State. Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation’s continued investment in South Carolina and our people will go a long way toward creating much-needed independence in this industry. This great company continues to show that we have the talent and the ability to do anything we put our minds to, right here in South Carolina.”
Last July, Kennedy announced an investment of $215 million for Lexington County, bringing 380 new full-time jobs to the area by 2024, and adding new office, warehouse and vaccine production space. This announcement included the establishment of the Kennedy Innovation Complex, home of Nephron Nitrile, and these projects are ahead of schedule. Since re-locating company headquarters to Lexington County from Orlando, Nephron has invested more than a half billion dollars in the region, creating almost 2,000 full and part time jobs.
“Lexington County is beyond excited to say congratulations again to Nephron Pharmaceuticals,” said Lexington County Council Chairman M. Todd Cullum. “The county is enthusiastic about this announcement as much or more than the company’s original announcement to locate in Lexington County. Their investment in hard assets and jobs is second to none in South Carolina. Nephron’s partnership with Lexington County has been tremendous in helping to improve the quality of life in our county and the region. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for this extraordinary company.”
A West Columbia, S.C.-based company, Nephron develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products. The company also operates an industry-leading 503B Outsourcing Facility division which produces pre-filled sterile syringes, luer-lock vials, IV bottles and IV bags for hospitals across America, in an effort to alleviate drug shortage needs. Nephron launched a CLIA-certified diagnostics lab last year where it tests people for COVID-19 and administers vaccinations.
For more information regarding Nephron Nitrile, including orders and partnerships, please email: NephronNitrile@nephronpharm.com.