Revaly solution soft launched earlier this year at SCBIO 2022 Conference see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation selects Revaly as their design collaboration tool.
ZVerse, an award-winning design technology firm, today announces early access of Revaly, its web-based 3D design collaboration software, which is focused on solving the unique communication challenges between engineers and their non-technical peers and/or clients. With Revaly, everyone can securely view, share and annotate computer-aided design (CAD) models asynchronously or in real-time from any device.
“Our goal with Revaly is to make design conversations incredibly easy, efficient and enjoyable for engineers and non-technical collaborators,” said John Carrington, CEO of ZVerse. “Having spent years in the design-for-manufacturing world, we understand the importance of getting feedback early and often from all stakeholders. Revaly offers an approachable user experience for hi-fidelity design conversations that result in happier teams and more productive organizations.”
In January, ZVerse offered Revaly in a closed beta program for organizations from the biotech, industrial manufacturing services, consumer products and education sectors. Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., a leading manufacturer of generic respiratory medications, became an early adopter of Revaly for use by their rapidly expanding engineering and manufacturing teams.
“At Nephron, collaboration between our engineers, machine shop technicians, suppliers and the production floor is critical to keeping our medications shipping to customers. Revaly streamlines design conversations between our departments better than anything we’ve tried. Our team loves how easy it is to use and how much time it saves them in design cycles. Revaly will save our company millions of dollars by having better design feedback earlier in the process,” said Lou Kennedy, Owner and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation
Bringing Design Reviews into the Modern Era
As remote work has become more ubiquitous, asynchronous collaboration tools for ideation, workflows and huddling have exploded onto the market. However, 80% of engineers still rely on a combination of email, screenshots and PDFs to collaborate with their product development teams or clients. Communicating on 3D models is complex due to file sizes, software requirements to view, technical skill sets and security considerations.
“Collaborative engineering and seamless knowledge transfer are the keys to innovation in manufacturing design. Revaly enables true asynchronous design collaboration in a way that is impossible to achieve through email and slide presentations,” said Ramy Harik, PhD., Chief Manufacturing Officer at Nephron Pharmaceuticals.
About Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation
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 in 2020 where it tests people for COVID-19 and administers vaccinations. In July, Nephron announced the opening of Nephron Nitrile, a plant that will produce American-made, medical-grade nitrile gloves.
How Lou and Bill Kennedy brought Nephron Pharmaceuticals home... and are making a difference in SC see more
Bill and Lou Kennedy consider their first date to be a trip to Blue Marlin in Columbia’s Vista, after a Georgia-South Carolina football game where they first met. While at the restaurant, Lou started asking about Bill’s business, a Florida-based manufacturer called Nephron Pharmaceuticals.
“I asked how many customers he had, and he said ‘three, my old company and two people who used to work for me’,” Lou Kennedy remembers. “And I said, ‘don’t you think you ought to diversify?’ That was the first time we ever met.”
Today, they have been married 20 years, and Nephron is based in Lou Kennedy’s home county, operating on a 715,000-square-foot campus in a Lexington County industrial park. Thousands of workers develop, produce and distribute a wide range of medical products. Lou Kennedy went from an interested outsider to the majority owner, now overseeing the company’s latest expansion during a time of growing needs in the medical field and a global pandemic.
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 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.
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 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.
Nephron's Lou Kennedy on building a career while building up people see more
The executive who strides into her expansive office may have come a long way from the Fulton County government building where she once stood in line to get her water service turned back on, but Lou Kennedy remains the same Lexington County product, rooted in hard work and family, that other S.C. businesses leaders say they have known for decades.
The national spotlight has recently shone on Kennedy, owner and CEO of West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., as a program she created to help teachers earn extra cash was featured on NBC News while her on-premise lab has churned out respiratory drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic and processed tests for the community. But those who have known her the longest say that, along a career path that wound through Georgia and Florida before circling back to her hometown, Kennedy has never changed who she is.
“Lou has always been a dynamo,” said Sam Konduros, the former CEO of SCBIO who recently became president and CEO of a new health innovation division at Charleston-based Vikor Scientific. “Her mother taught me first grade. We actually met when we were six years old at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Columbia and have known each other ever since.”
With a July birthday three days before Kennedy’s, Konduros shares both her Zodiac sign of Cancer and her love for the water.
“She says Cancers are water babies and that’s why we both love swimming, boating and being at the lake all the time,” Konduros said. “I’ve said there is not one passive bone in Lou’s body, and that’s the truth. She is very action-oriented, and very results-driven.
“I love that about her, but the fact is, she is so much fun to be around, too, just a great personality and zest for life.”
Kim Wilkerson, president of South Carolina for Bank of America, grew up “caddywampus backdoor neighbors” with Kennedy in the Cayce subdivision of Edenwood, home to many families with members employed by Eastman Chemical Co., where Kennedy’s father worked for 44 years.
“Our daddies worked together at Eastman back when we were little girls,” said Wilkerson, who is five years Kennedy’s senior. “I’ve known Lou literally just about her whole life. … She is just a very genuine person. What you see with Lou is absolutely what you get.”
Although Kennedy has led Nephron since 2007, there are still those who are surprised by what they see when she walks into a room, ever-present high heels clicking.
“If they haven’t seen a picture of me — now it’s better, because you have social media — they’re going to assume Lou’s a man,” Kennedy said. “You call always tell: ‘Oh, we’re waiting on Lou Kennedy.’ ‘Hi, I’m Lou Kennedy.’ ”
Kennedy has also encountered those who know who she is but have a faulty perception of how she came to be where she is. She said she still deals with folks who think her success is from her husband, Bill Kennedy, a fellow University of South Carolina graduate who in 1997 founded Nephron, a producer and manufacturer of generic respiratory medication that relocated from Orlando, Fla., to Lexington County in 2017.
“That happens to this day,” she said. “If you spend about half a day around here, you’ll see that that’s not the case. My husband and I are 20 years difference in age. He has a pharmacy degree. I have a journalism degree. So one would think that I got a kind of free ride onto his coattails. But what you have to know is he doesn’t like daily execution. He likes business, five and 10 years (out) and what’s going to be the goal for this profitability or the pricing mechanism. He doesn’t want to know what goes on to make the sausage. He wants to talk about who’s the buyer of the sausage, what’s the contractual price, those kinds of things.
“Once you spend some time around us, which has happened with our bankers, which has happened with the lawyers — they know now that they’re going to face Bill for this kind of question, and they’re going to face me for what goes on around here.”
Long road home
Kennedy left Lexington County after college in search of bigger things on a journey that took her to Atlanta and Houston, among other places, and through difficult life experiences that proved invaluable.
“I had two failed marriages. The father of my child, the second ex-husband, was an addict, and it was a really, really tough life,” Kennedy said. “He did a lot to ruin my credit, a lot to make life hard for me, but I’m forever grateful, because when you have to live with an addict, you learn a lot about the field of psychology. How not to set them off, how not to cause this to happen, how not to have the house come tumbling down, how to keep the creditors from evicting you. These are skills in my little middle-class wonderful upbringing that I never thought I’d have to have. But I swear I benefit. I can see bull---- from 40 miles off. I can spot a con artist, a liar.
“I got my daughter from that. I’m never regretful, because many of the skills that serve me well today came out of those rough eight to 10 years.”
As she got back on her feet, Kennedy, with a background in marketing, worked three jobs, including a stint as a house painter with daughter Xanna often in tow.
“She’d sit, on the weekends, underneath me on a ladder,” Kennedy said. “I had all these Little Golden Books for her to try and read to keep her occupied so I could make enough to keep our lights on. I had this little blond mouth to feed. You just figure it out.”
Visting South Carolina for a girlfriend’s shower, Kennedy was talked into meeting someone, a friend of her friend’s brother-in-law, who had also gone through a divorce. The girlfriend’s selling point to her? “ ‘We think you might at least finally have somebody who could afford to pay for the date,’ ” Kennedy said.
After spilling a glass of wine on her, Bill Kennedy told her what he did for a living. Xanna took one of the respiratory drugs, albuterol, manufactured by Nephron, and Kennedy’s interest was piqued. She peppered her new acquaintance with questions about his business, learning he had three customers.
“I met him 10 minutes before this, and I said, ‘Don’t you think you ought to diversify? Three customers. Aren’t you a little concerned?’ ” Kennedy said. “And that’s how this whole thing started.”
The personal partnership became professional when Kennedy joined Nephron in 2001. As the Kennedys were contemplating a Nephron expansion in Florida, Lou Kennedy reached out to an old friend with economic development connections at the S.C. Department of Commerce.
“She called on a day that she was a little frustrated and said, ‘You know, I really think it’s time for us to look at South Carolina to diversify where our company is going,’ ” Konduros said. “I ended up looping her in with the Department of Commerce leadership, and the rest is kind of history. Not only did they diversify to South Carolina, they ended up bringing the entire company, and here we are, several years later, with over 2,000 employees and a huge expansion.”
Work on Nephron’s $215.8 million expansion of its Saxe-Gotha Industrial Park campus, announced last July and projected to increase its workforce by 380 workers, is nearing completion. The project was the fourth-most lucrative capital investment secured by the state in 2020 and the latest in a line of Nephron initiatives that have boosted the state and area economy.
The Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center in the University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy was established by a $30 million gift announced in 2010, the biggest splash in a long-time partnership between the Kennedys and their alma mater that has also included a donation to the Pastides Alumni Center. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company also donated more than 100,000 bottles of company-made hand sanitizer to the university.
“There’s a reason that people call her Cockadoodle Lou,” said Wes Hickman, CEO of the University of South Carolina Alumni Association. “She is one of the biggest fans and supporters of our institution, and the generosity she and Bill have shown the university and the alumni association in particular have made a real difference. … Beyond the financial support, it’s her engagement and her willingness to share ideas, to participate in events, and to help drive innovation.”
Nephron has also donated its hand sanitizer to the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center, partnered with Clemson University to develop rapid robotic drug processing and has donated welding equipment to programs at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. The company also partnered with Dominion Energy to transform Dominion-owned land off Interstate 77 near Nephron’s campus into a drive-through COVID vaccination site that was inoculating up to 150 people per day in February.
Wilkerson pointed to that initiative as an example of how Kennedy gets things done — and fast.
“She is a real difference-maker,” Wilkerson said. “She’s a dot connector, an outside-the-box thinker, (and) because she is such an outside-the-box thinker, she is able to make things happen so quickly. She looks for ways to collaborate with others to make a difference for the greater good. … Her Lexington County roots really have paid off for us here in the Midlands.”
‘Lift as you climb’
For Meghan Hickman, like many Midlands professionals, Kennedy’s reputation proceeded her.
“I remember hearing stories of Lou before I actually got to meet her,” said Hickman, executive director of nonprofit economic development organization EngenuitySC who has worked with Kennedy on initiatives to improve the Midlands’ competitiveness and livability. “The story I kept hearing was that she was boundless energy and would take these men on tours of this facility in high heels and outwalk all of them. I was like, ‘I don’t know who this woman is, but I want to meet her.’ ”
The reality exceeded the expectation.
“She’s one of those personalities that has a way of magnifying any room she’s in,” Hickman said. “When she’s around, you know it. When she’s participating, she wants to be relevant. She wants to play a role. She doesn’t give anything just half of who she is. … One of the things that I love the most about Lou is her unabashed candor. She is honest to a fault, and I love watching the way that she will say what’s on her mind and on her heart in a room without any fear of how it will land or without fear of repercussion. I love that bravery.”
That freedom stems from success in putting principals into practice. Nephron, a certified woman-owned business as recognized by the National Women Business Owner Corp., employees a workforce that is 44% female and is offering a diversity internship program this summer.
Kennedy believes in such efforts because she has seen what they produce. At the height of the pandemic in March 2020, Nephron’s monthly production of inhalation solutions increased 141% from 80 million doses shipped to 193 million. And while demand has since subsided, Nephron is still operating all 12 of its production lines while adding new packaging lines.
The company is also in talks with two potential vaccine partners to help produce pre-filled sterile syringes and are part of the company’s booming 503B Outsourcing Facility arm that supplies hospitals nationwide and is newly supported by the 110,000-square-foot vaccine production, chemotherapy and antibiotic wing that is part of its expansion.
Such results give Kennedy confidence in her methods.
“After this many years as the lone female in the room, I feel like it’s really the right person for the job,” Kennedy said. “It’s not my problem to get you to accept that I’m the right person for the job. That’s your problem. If I’m putting numbers on paper and we’re productive and we do the things that we promise patients we’re going to do, then haven’t I already proven that I’m the right person for the job? You can respect me or not. That’s not my problem anymore. That’s yours.”
These days, respect for Kennedy is not in short supply. Elected to the National Association of Manufacturers board of directors in March, Kennedy is chair of the SCBIO board, a position she has also held for the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Awards line the shelves of her office, and she’s particularly proud of a recent honor: In March, Lou and Bill Kennedy were recognized with the 2021 Townes Award from the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics.
The award is named for S.C. native Dr. Charles Townes, whose pioneering research into lasers earned him both the Nobel and Templeton prizes. Kennedy especially appreciates the honor’s focus on encouraging STEM education.
“Much as I love my journalism degree, I really wish I’d have stepped out on a limb, taken an extra three hours of some sort of science other than a geology class,” she said. “I do regret not taking high school chemistry. I’m always telling kids, even if you make a C, learn it. Just go learn it.”
Journalism did afford Kennedy one of her first mentors: Mary Caldwell, a journalism professor of Kennedy’s for whom the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications’ excellence in teaching award is named.
“She had a snappy briefcase, and in the 80s, you still carried briefcases,” Kennedy said. “She whisked in there and she, just like me, loved to wear heels. She’d come into class and she had a blazer, she had a snappy briefcase and some heels, and she had worked in Atlanta in a giant PR firm, and that to me seemed like an episode of Mad Men from my little seat in Lexington County. Atlanta, New York, Madison Avenue — it all seemed like big potatoes to me. She would look at me and say, ‘’You can do anything you want to do. You just have to work hard enough.’ ”
And Kennedy believes hard work has given her a different kind of knowledge.
“I definitely think there is a value to a female in a leadership role with the focus on emotional intelligence,” she said. “Forget the academic IQ of it. I mean emotional intelligence. Are the people ready for a bold statement? Do you need to couch something? I just believe the communication skills that most women utilize when they’re working on any project serve us well.”
Some of those professional skills were borne out of personal hardships, Kennedy said.
“When you have to struggle as a single mom to put food on the table, pay for gas, pay the rent, pay the light bill — forget having cable; that was too much of a luxury — all of that makes you cognizant of how to look toward a leaner operation,” she said. “And when you live with a spouse that has a lot of issues, it teaches you about reading people. … I’m telling you. I feel like it’s a life experience Ph.D. in psychology is what I’ve obtained, based on my experiences.
“It’s not an academic Ph.D.; it’s a lifetime wear and tear.”
A product of those life lessons is a phrase that Wilkerson, Hickman and other women who’ve worked with Kennedy use: Lift as you climb.
“We get into a place and we send the elevator back down to pick others up and bring them with us,” Wilkerson said. “This idea of lifting as you climb, for Lou and for me, is very, very real. It’s just a part of how we think.
“We are both in unique positions of being able to help young women see what’s possible.”
Echoed Hickman: “Particularly with females, for a long time, opportunities that came along to lead were so few and far between that you fiercely protected those opportunities. It’s almost like, for women in leadership, there was a scarcity mindset that defined what it meant to be a leader, as opposed to this abundance mindset. … With Lou, there’s such an abundance mindset.
“It doesn’t matter whether she’s working in her business or she’s working in the community. There is no such thing as scarcity. There is abundant opportunity.”
Contributing to her hometown, in an office “which, as the crow flies, is right through the woods” from Eastman Park, where her family picnicked in facilities maintained by her father, makes extending those opportunities all the more meaningful for Kennedy.
“You walk around here and there are people that actually worked with my daddy in the first part of their career, so that feels really good,” Kennedy said. “It feels good to do that in South Carolina. I had said I was never coming back. I left for 35 years, and to come home and provide jobs is way more meaningful than doing it in Orlando, Florida.”
With a lineage from the Tennessee mountains that includes a Baptist preacher grandfather and tobacco-farming relatives, Kennedy saw that attitude exemplified by her parents, Nancy and Jerry Wood. Kennedy’s mother signed her up for gymnastics classes so she could be better prepared for cheerleading tryouts and “expected perfection in all things,” Kennedy said. “She would probably argue that she didn’t, but she did … My dad’s the greatest man ever. He can just do anything, fix anything. He could patch a cheerleader uniform. He could sew. He can do all these things. So I guess maybe I’ve always aspired to try and be half as useful.”
Kennedy is proud of what she’s been able to give back to her community and pleased when employees, especially women, chose science careers after working at Nephron. And while she’s quick to show off pictures of new grandson Lincoln, Kennedy laughs at the idea of contemplating her legacy right now.
“Are you kidding me?” she said. “I’m more focused on what isn’t right than that.”
SC life sciences news of note fro your reading pleasure is now live! see more
This edition of SCBIO's semi-monthly newsletter is chock full of great information, including next week's eagerly anticipated webinar featuring top elected officials on SC's path forward from COVID, the "Slow the Spread" PSA campaign from BCBSSC and SCHA, highlights on companies stepping up in tough times, late-breaking news and more. Read the entire thing by clicking here!
Nephron steps up to support USC's planned reopening with donations of sanitizer see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is donating more than 100,000 bottles of company-manufactured hand sanitizer to the University of South Carolina as part of the West Columbia-based company's ongoing efforts to help fight COVID-19.
The first 5,000 bottles arrived on campus today, hand-delivered by Nephron president and CEO Lou Kennedy and Nephron's new van bearing its clinical lab logo to a group of student leaders on the university’s Horseshoe.
“No matter how tall the challenge is, Gamecocks step up,” Kennedy, a 1984 USC graduate, said in a news release. “Our company is proud to do our part to help the university make sure it is ready to welcome students, staff and faculty back to campus.”
USC, which closed its campuses in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is resuming in-person instruction in mid-August.
“We’re grateful to Lou and Bill Kennedy and the entire team at Nephron Pharmaceuticals for this generous gift,” Bob Caslen, USC president, said. “This donation helps support the safe return of our students and employees to campus and exemplifies what the Gamecock spirit is all about: making our communities better through selfless service and caring for others.”
The bottles bear a private label requested by the university, Kennedy said.
Nephron develops and produces generic respiratory medication, including inhalation solutions and suspension products that can be used to treat severe respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19.
In March, Nephron began making its own hand sanitizer, and previously donated 50 liters to the William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veteran Affairs Medical Center. The company added a production line in April be used in the manufacturing of bronchodilator albuterol as demand for its products soars during the pandemic.
Last month, the company announced an expansion of its COVID-19 testing capabilities through a partnership with medical technology company One Medical. Kennedy told the Columbia Regional Business Report today that Nephron’s on-site clinical lab began testing company employees last week and plans to process samples collected during a drive-thru testing clinic June 19 and 20 at Benedict College’s football stadium.
“We are trying to be a good partner with DHEC, a good partner with the local hospitals, and see how we can take some of the stress off of their labs for testing,” said Kennedy, who said Nephron has also developed, in partnership with Lexington Medical Center, a transport medium for nasal swabs used in the testing process.
Nephron has hired its own nurse practitioner and installed a chief medical officer, Kennedy said. She said the department-by-department testing of employees will continue through this week.
“The more we test, we’re going to find people that are asymptomatic, but it’s important for us to get this contact tracing thing figured out, get a baseline, get people home and get them well,” she said.
Nephron announces new partnership see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical companies in the country, announced a new partnership with One Medical, a leading national digital health and primary care organization that combines 24/7 access to virtual care and digital health tools with COVID-19 testing services to businesses and employees.
“Re-opening businesses, and getting our economy moving again, is one of our highest priorities,” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy, who is a member of Governor Henry McMaster’s #accelerateSC, the coordinated COVID-19 advisory team tasked with recommending economic revitalization plans for South Carolina. “Part of the new normal for businesses is testing employees to make sure the workplace is safe. We couldn’t be prouder to offer COVID-19 testing services to our employees and neighbors.”
Kennedy and John Singerling, Chief Network Officer of One Medical and a longstanding healthcare executive based in South Carolina, are working together to make this partnership a reality, hoping that it serves as an example for businesses around the country.
The Nephron CLIA-Certified lab has procured state-of-the-art technology for COVID-19 real-time PCR testing and serological antibody testing for its own employees, and for employees of neighboring businesses. The lab intends to integrate with One Medical’s technology platform, which is capable of supporting a comprehensive workplace reentry COVID-19 testing program. One Medical’s virtual care solutions facilitate scheduling for specimen collection and digitally documenting those test results. It also screens and evaluates clinical risk factors and symptoms and supports employer tracking and reporting needs.
“I am very pleased to be working alongside the Nephron team to leverage One Medical’s digital health platform as a way to help get South Carolinians back to work safely,” said One Medical Chief Network Officer, John Singerling. “Currently working with over 7,000 employers nationwide has allowed One Medical to build a comprehensive workplace reentry program that is grounded in medicine and testing, and powered by our technology, which allows for seamless tracking, tracing and ongoing monitoring.”
SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests diagnose whether a person is infected with the virus by using technology that analyzes viral genetic material. Antibody tests check blood for antibodies. If present, antibodies indicate a person has been previously or is currently infected by the virus.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation has been on the frontlines of the nationwide COVID-19 response. The West Columbia-based company develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products that can be used to treat severe respiratory distress symptoms associated with COVID-19. In addition, the company operates an industry-leading 503B Outsourcing Facility division which produces pre-filled sterile syringes and IV bags for hospitals across America, in an effort to alleviate their drug shortage needs. These products are used, many times, to sedate patients and keep them comfortable when health care professionals place them on ventilators in the fight against the virus.
Nephron seeks to stem coronavirus concerns with expanded offerings see more
In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. has asked the Food and Drug Administration for permission to add up to six filling lines to ramp up its production of sterile respiratory medication.
Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said she spoke with the FDA on Tuesday morning and is “waiting to hear back.” Kennedy also said Nephron will begin making its own hand sanitizer as early as this week.
Nephron, which CEO Lou Kennedy said is one of two companies in the U.S. that produce 98% of the nebulizer solutions used in hospitals or sold in retail outlets, relocated to South Carolina from Florida in 2014.
“We didn’t move all the equipment right away,” moving an additional six filling lines to South Carolina in 2019, Kennedy said. She said she had been in discussion with the FDA for permission to bring those machines online. A meeting had been scheduled for March 22 before she made another request Tuesday.
West Columbia-based Nephron has asked for FDA approval to add up to six filling lines for its respiratory medication manufacturing. CEO Lou Kennedy also announced the company will begin making hand sanitizer this week. (Photo/File)
The eight filling lines currently being used in production of the inhalation solutions Nephron makes typically produce 80 to 85 million doses a month “on a regular basis” and are capable of making up to 110 million monthly doses, Kennedy said.
“As of yesterday, we had orders on the books for 87 million, so already a month’s worth,” Kennedy said. “For the last two weeks, those orders have been running about 48% higher than we would normally see. … We do have backstock that we’ve built up in inventory, (but) that won’t last forever.”
To maximize Nephron’s 24-hour, seven-day-a-week production schedule, Kennedy said the company has begun providing in-house child care. Children are provided food, and already stringent cleaning efforts have been “tripled,” Kennedy said. She said the same methods used to maintain sterile facility conditions, including the use of a fogging machine and wiping down surfaces with isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, are being deployed in the day care.
“We’re really good at cleaning here, because we only make sterile drugs,” Kennedy said. “I’m very confident about making a clean environment for these children.”
During a conference call Tuesday, Kennedy also said Nephron has received FDA approval to begin making its own hand sanitizer and ordered supplies to do so on Monday.
“We will take care of the Nephron family first, and after we do that, we will look at should we go through churches, the Salvation Army, how can we help the community, and/or commercial production,” she said. “I’ve had at least six requests from various sales reps across the country. Hospitals are asking can we make that hand sanitizer for them.”
The plan is to produce 50-liter batches of a strong, FDA recipe without fragrances or other diluting agents, Kennedy said. She said she will gift what is left over from the first batch, after Nephron employees and their families have been served, to local charities.
Kennedy said as early as December, Nephron began taking stock of things such as the resin used to make vials of its liquid medication as well as its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients. “We are fortunate that we have more than a year’s supply of that (API) on hand,” she said.
Nephron makes bronchodilators including albuterol used to treat respiratory illnesses such as bronchial asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and croup. It also manufactures Pocket Nebs, which are portable, battery-charged nebulizers.
Novel coronavirus can cause cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Severe infections can lead to complications including pneumonia, according to the World Health Organization.
Increased product demand during cold, cough and allergy season, as well as past experience with respiratory illnesses including SARS and H1N1, have made the company ever-vigilant, Kennedy said.
“We make sure to be very rock-solid in our preparation to accommodate the needs of America,” she said.
Kennedy said hiring and training has already begun in anticipation of FDA approval of the additional filling lines.
“We have the people to be able to ramp that up right now,” she said. “ … If we don’t get our hands wrapped around this quickly, meaning we squelch the spread, get control of the spread, it’s going to be a long, hard road. But it’s easily solved if the FDA allows me to ramp up the five or six other lines that I brought here from Florida.”
Nephron partnership helps patients receive anesthetics faster see more
A new partnership between Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. and National Medical Products Inc. will help provide more patients with a quick and simple delivery of anesthetic medications, according to a news release from Nephron.
National Medical Products is the developer of the single-use, subcutaneous J-Tip Needle-Free Injector. Hospitals which use the injector will now be able to use Nephron-developed technology in a Luer lock syringe, buffered and pre-filled with lidocaine, to fill it.
“This new partnership is a huge win for patients, and we are extraordinarily excited to announce it,” Lou Kennedy, CEO of West Columbia-headquartered Nephron, said in the release. “Working together with the developers of J-Tip, we are making sure that the delivery of anesthetic medications is safe, easy-to-use and virtually pain-free, because patients deserve nothing less.”
California-based National Medical Products, established in 2001, refined a jet-injection technology previously used by the military for vaccine delivery to create a self-contained injector that uses compressed carbon dioxide to provide an anesthetic effect in one to two minutes, according to the release. The injector is most commonly used before procedures such as IV insertions and blood draws.
Nephron said the companies hope the partnership will help reach more patients.
USC Research partnerships generating big impact for state see more
When the University of South Carolina’s Office of Economic Engagement (OEE) first launched six years ago, its goal was to build relationships between researchers and industry partners. True to its mandate, the university has forged ties with global industry giants and is driving hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy.
The OEE, with its corporate and government partners, has created over $790 million in indirect economic impact since its founding in 2013, using a standard economic development analysis that examines both direct and indirect economic benefits generated through the office. The figure includes ongoing industry partner investments along with grant generation, software gifts, and new job creation.
“Thanks to the vision of President Harris Pastides, OEE has had a swift economic impact on our state,” said University of South Carolina president Robert Caslen. “We look forward to building more research partnership opportunities, and providing our students with the skills and expertise needed for success in high-tech careers.”
The OEE serves as the convergence point for private industry, government and the university. In addition to connecting industry partners with the university’s intellectual capital, it also leads technology commercialization efforts, fosters entrepreneurship and start-ups, supports research centers, and grows existing collaborations.
“The tremendous success we’ve had in such a short period of time is a testament to the quality of research taking place here at the University of South Carolina,” said OEE Executive Director Bill Kirkland. “We are in the top one percent of patent-producing universities in the world, and innovative industry leaders know that South Carolina is the place to be.”
Ongoing research partnerships include a wide range of companies and federal agencies, from advanced computing, aerospace and automotive, to health care. They include: IBM, Boeing, NASA, Samsung, Siemens, Yaskawa, Capgemini, Prisma Health, Nephron, TIGHITCO and more.
OEE supported research centers include:
Three labs located at the McNAIR Aerospace Research Center on Catawba Street:
The IBM IOT Industrial Innovation Center (2018). The only university based IBM lab of its kind in North America, the lab uses cloud data to develop new technolgoies to help American manfacturers improve their operations.
The Digital Transformation Lab (2018). The 15,000 square-foot lab serves as a research showplace where projects with an array of real-world industrial and consumer applications are on display—from robotics, visual inspection, and autonomous drones to smart home appliances.
The Center for Predictive Maintenance. Researchers and students from four university departments support the U.S. Army Aviation program Using cloud-based technology and machine learning, researchers and students use the technology to conduct detailed analyses, identify potential defects or problems, and recommend specific solutions to improve maintenance for combat helicopters.
Siemens Healthineers Innovation Think Tank (ITT) Lab (2019). The ITT Lab is the first of its kind affiliated with a U.S. university. The lab will be an innovation hub where participants including researchers, faculty members, and students can think outside the box to solve issues in healthcare, artificial intelligence, robotics, and information technology alongside industry innovation leaders.
The AI Institute (2019). The new institute advances state-of-the-art AI applications in fields like health care, education, social sciences, communications, advanced manufacturing, autonomous transportation, and personalized security, while also examining the ethics and societal impact of advancing technologies.
Nephron, Clemson partner to meet hospital needs see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation is partnering with Clemson University to create a robotic solution for syringe-filling automation to enhance sterile manufacturing in the pharmaceutical production process and keep up with growing hospital demands.
“We are excited about our new partnership with Clemson and we cannot wait to get started,” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. “Working together with Clemson’s world-class researchers and engineers we can ensure that the pharmaceutical manufacturing process remains safe and we can deliver life-saving drugs to patients and hospitals across the country.”
The university’s newest strategic partner is turning to Clemson to harness the power of technology for more efficient processes. To do so, Nephron is enlisting the expertise of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences professor and researcher Yue “Sophie” Wang and mechanical engineering doctoral student Brandon Delspina and mechanical engineering master’s student Yu “Gloria” Zhang.
Their robotics research for syringe automation will support the Nephron 503B Outsourcing Facility, a cGMP manufacturer providing sterile, pre-filled medications to address persistent drug shortages in hospitals and medical facilities across America.
Based in West Columbia, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and one of the fastest-growing companies in South Carolina. This is Nephron’s first partnership with the university and was developed through External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Clemson University.
“When the External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives approached us about this project we were excited to get involved,” said Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Our work in robotics can have a tremendous impact on individuals across the country and we are looking forward to working on this because of its benefits for the many patients Nephron serves.”
“Industry needs are changing at a rapid rate and Clemson is equipped to support companies like Nephron. Together, we have created a mutually beneficial project to enhance their capabilities while providing the university’s students with unique, hands-on research experience,” said Angie Leidinger, vice president for External Affairs. “This partnership is a testament to the work happening at Clemson and we’re looking forward to this collaboration, which will advance their business and benefit South Carolinians.”
Nephron advances let it deliver supplies to hospitals faster than ever see more
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., headquartered in West Columbia, has announced the implementation of a microbial testing tool that the generic respiratory medication manufacturer says will help it deliver medical supplies to hospitals faster than ever.
Growth Direct, developed by Massachusetts-based lab equipment supplier Rapid Micro Biosystems, automates the incubation, colony counting and data entry of microbial environment testing, according to a Nephron news release. The tool also detects microbial growth 50% faster than human eye.
“We work hard, day in and out, to deliver safe, effective and affordable life-saving medications as efficiently as possible,” Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said in the release. “Automating our microbial monitoring process allows us to produce safer drugs faster and decreases the shortage of opioid-free pain medication currently facing our nation’s hospitals.”
Growth Direct will allow Nephron’s 503(b) outsourcing division, which produces pre-filled sterile syringes and IV bags, to deliver medical supplies more quickly, the release said.
“We're excited that Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. has joined the growing list of global pharmaceutical manufacturers who are upgrading and automating their QC Microbial testing methods with the Growth Direct,” Rapid Micro Biosystems CEO Rob Spignesi said. “And we are proud to help Nephron Pharmaceuticals reduce the shortage of important drugs that help make surgery safer and less painful for patients across the country.”