COVID testing expands in workplace see more
As industry begins to reopen across the state, life science companies turn their sights to expanding COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing options for the workplace.
Greenville-based lab Precision Genetics partnered with Prisma Health in early April to process the health care system’s COVID-19 tests within 24-hours of reaching the lab.
Now that this testing line is fully automated with the capacity to churn out about 1,000 samples in a matter of hours, the lab is developing plans for the next testing battleground with a high-throughput COVID-19 diagnostic program called “Precision Worker Safety” and a smartphone employee wellness app created by Questis that uses an RFID thermometer to report feverish temperatures to employers.
“Up here in Greenville, manufacturing is a huge, huge part of our economic situation, so we have to be able to provide employers some kind of assurance that their employees can come back to work without a rapid spread of the virus,” Nate Wilbourne, CEO and president of Precision Genetics said, adding that it is “naive” to think the state peaked in mid-April with so little testing.
He said Precision is working with several large self-insured manufacturing companies as well as poultry suppliers to develop a salvia-based testing strategy. Pending a state-supported grant that the lab applied for during the week of May 1, Precision will launch saliva-based testing within three weeks.
Other methods of testing face a waiting period before they can be implemented, while the app is several months away from release, he said.
“What we’ve developed is a combination approach to COVID-19 screening and an antibody test as it evolves, as the workforce is building up an immunity at the individual level, which reduces the spread over time,” he said. “Until there’s a vaccine or some type of therapy, that is the safest way to go about this.”
In late April, however, Wilbourne said current antibody tests led to a number of false positives and negatives.
“Unfortunately, antibody testing is not very reliable today, as it sits,” he said. “There are still a lot of gaps in the science regarding the sensitivities and specifications. Right now, there are 50 proteins in the coronavirus. Right now, we (the health science community) are testing for multiple proteins, but there’s no way to guarantee which protein creates immunity.”
He also said antibody testing can only detect antibodies a few weeks after individuals have recovered from COVID-19 but noted that the work of professionals like Dr. John Wrangle, Precision’s chief medical officer and medical oncologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, are heading up research to broaden the window of antibody detection and accuracy of the tests.
Sam Konduros, CEO and president of SCBio, said the life sciences economic development network is working to support continued research and implementation of both diagnostic and antibody testing across the state.
“Even from the beginning, we were trying to present every approved and available COVID-19 test kit option we were aware of, and as you can imagine, we are moving heavily into the world of antibody testing now too,” he said. Our primary goal in representing the life sciences industry in the state is to have a very ecumenical approach of what resources are available that can help employers reopen as safely as possible if working remotely is not an option.”
One way SCBio hopes to open those options to employers is making test kits readily available to state industries through the COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative that SCBio helped develop with the S.C. Manufacturers Extension Partnership, the S.C. Hospital Association and S.C. Department of Commerce.
Created in early April with the goal of bridging shortages in personal protective equipment and other critical needs goods to health care systems, Konduros said the online portal also welcomes purchases from businesses, especially manufacturers, in need of South Carolina-made masks, disinfectant, test kits or a host of other high-demand products.
On April 7, Konduros also noted that antibody testing tended to be a less reliable indicator than diagnostic testing at this point, but he sees potential for companies to use both, especially as antibody testing becomes more sophisticated and “herd immunity” builds.
“From a diagnostic standpoint, there doesn’t seem to be a substitution for PCR testing, which is going to be the one way to confirm a diagnosis for someone with COVID-19, either someone who is showing acute symptoms or has had clear exposure, or is working in an environment where an employer would simply need to know there is that issue,” he said.
On the other hand, Konduros is intrigued by the potential of workforce antibody testing as research moves forward, especially with tests used by Abbott Laboratories, that detect IgG antibodies that remain in the bloodstream for several weeks after an individual recovers from COVID-19. He said that as the state moves into summer, Abbott is planning to release large quantities of IgG tests that are at least 98% accurate.
“I certainly think the antibody tests are going to innovate and improve over time, and there’s going to be a lot more data to see how people are responding who have had COVID-19 and what kind of immunity is being developed. There are just so many variables right now,” Konduros said.
South Carolina firm's NP Collection Swab offers a highly scalable injection-molded design see more
South Carolina-based Hoowaki LLC has developed an innovative one-piece injection molded design for a COVID-19 swab to help close the gap in U.S. and global COVID-19 testing supplies. The 12-year old micro surface engineering and product solutions company has adapted its proprietary HOOWAKI MICROGRIP® surface technology to create micro-pillars used in the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab that is shown in clinical user testing to meet existing industry-standard products for flexibility and performance. In independent laboratory testing (qPCR Assay) it has also been proven to be equivalent to the industry-standard flocked filament swabs in the collection of patient RNA that is critical for COVID-19 testing. Mass-production of its FDA registered, patent pending, Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab will begin this summer and is expected to reach at least several million units per month.
"The Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab is an important answer to the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic," said Ralph Hulseman, president of Hoowaki LLC. "Our design allows for production to be quickly scaled in communities around the world—rapidly addressing the rising demand for swabs, a critically important element of all COVID-19 testing."
A recent study by Harvard University [https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/roadmaptopandemicresilience_updated_4.20.20_0.pdf] cites the need for up to 20 million COVID-19 tests per day by the end of summer. The proprietary Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab is manufactured using advanced injection molding technologies that utilize existing equipment that is readily available in communities throughout the world. The swab's scalability is due to Hoowaki LLC's formulations and engineering designs working at existing injection molding facilities, which enables the swab to be produced in quantities that meet local demands anywhere in the world.
"Prisma Health collaborated with Hoowaki LLC in the testing and development of the innovative new design. The soft feel and ease of use of the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab tip impressed my team," said Jennifer Meredith, Ph.D., clinical microbiology director at Prisma Health-Upstate.
"Prisma Health is excited to see a locally produced solution that could help ease the shortage of swabs for COVID-19 sample collection," said Meredith. "Hoowaki LLC's product has the potential to help us meet our commitment to our patients in the fight against COVID-19." Prisma Health, the largest healthcare system in South Carolina, harnessed its Rapid Innovation Task Force to help with the project.
Hulseman credits several public-private partnerships that have helped to provide start-up funding for the swab's development: "As is the case for many businesses in today's environment, Hoowaki LLC adapted quickly to meet new challenges where demand is outpacing supply so we could remain not only viable as a company, but also pursue this pioneering technology. We're grateful for the backing of the Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC) and SC Launch, Inc., an investment affiliate of the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), who have been instrumental in helping us develop the Hoowaki® NP Collection Swab."
"Hoowaki LLC is a great example of a small business that has proven to be a powerhouse of innovation during a time of incredible challenge," said David Barnett, Chairman of the Greenville Local Development Corporation. "We are proud of our continued support for Hoowaki LLC in the development of the NP Collection Swab."
Hoowaki, LLC is a micro surface engineering services and product solutions company that has developed unique micro surface pattern designs, engineering algorithms, software and manufacturing know-how to address major markets. The company's micro surface technology provides grip or slip solutions in the form of films for medical devices, packaging and other industrial and consumer products. Their team includes experienced micro surface engineers, physicists, friction experts, medical device experts, entrepreneurs, inventors and developers. Hoowaki has market deployment partnerships with Havi (packaging) and BvW Holding AG (implanted medical devices). Hoowaki has a broad patent coverage of micro surface technology.
Healthcare leaders address good, not so good in COVID-19 response see more
Four thought leaders from South Carolina healthcare’s executive ranks will address how SC health systems have responded to the impacts of COVID-19, compelling lessons learned, and what they see as the path forward for healthcare in the Palmetto State and beyond, in a free, public webinar to be held Tuesday, May 19 at 10 a.m. EST, officials have announced.
Featured panelists include Dr. Danielle Scheurer, Chief Quality Officer of MUSC Health; Dr. Alain Litwin, Health Sciences Center Rapid Innovation Task Force leader of Prisma Health; Thornton Kirby, CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association; and Matthew Roberts, Chair of Healthcare Practice of the Nexsen Pruet Law Firm. The webinar will be hosted and moderated by Sam Konduros, CEO and President of SCBIO. Participation is free and interested parties can register to participate at https://www.scbio.org/events/next-up-how-sc-healthcare-is-taking-on-covid-19.
The 60-minute program is meant to provide business leaders, elected officials and key stakeholders of South Carolina’s life sciences industry with a real-time status of the state’s healthcare climate two-plus months into the global COVID-19 pandemic, unique responses to this modern day plague, and how the public healthcare crisis has impacted both current and future delivery of healthcare. The panelists will also address a realistic path forward as South Carolina begins the move to return to normalcy while still navigating a virus with no clear endpoint.
“Our goal is to identify and discuss what South Carolina healthcare has done well, such as widespread implementation of telehealth, advances in equipment and testing, and partnering with other players and states to make a difference, while also addressing the state’s and nation’s challenges including limitations in our rural health systems, and a surprising level of dependence on drugs and equipment from foreign countries,” noted SCBIO CEO Sam Konduros.
“The panelists will also share their thoughts on important lessons learned, innovation opportunities and strategies for the future – identifying ways for organizations and the healthcare industry in SC to come together to collectively solve problems and improve treatment and quality of life for all South Carolinians,” he added.
SCBIO is South Carolina’s investor-driven public/private economic development organization exclusively focused on building, advancing, and growing the life sciences industry in the state. The industry has an $11.4 billion annual economic impact in the Palmetto State, with more than 600 firms directly involved and 43,000 professionals employed directly or indirectly in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotech and products. The state-wide nonprofit has offices in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, and represents companies in the advanced medicines, medical devices, equipment, diagnostics, IT, and healthcare outcome industries. As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups.
For additional information on SCBIO, visit www.SCBIO.org.
Record Gathering of South Carolina Life Sciences Industry Honors USC’s Dr. Harris Pastides, AVX Corporation, Prisma’s Youkey for ContributionsIndustry leaders in Greenville salute AVX, Pastides, Youkey for advancing SC life sciences see more
450 industry leaders in Greenville salute honorees for advancing South Carolina’s life sciences, discuss avenues to “Ignite the Future” of fast-growing industry
NOVEMBER 4, 2019 – To resounding applause from a record gathering from 11 countries, 32 states and virtually every county in South Carolina, life sciences leaders at SCBIO 2019 in Greenville saluted three leaders – two individuals and one organization – for profound positive impact and exceptional contributions to the advancement of South Carolina’s $11.4 billion life sciences industry.
Retired University of South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides was presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Hall of Fame Award for his personal championing of the life sciences industry, which today has an $11.4 billion annual economic impact in the Palmetto State, with more than 670 firms directly involved and over 43,000 professionals employed in the research, development and commercialization of innovative healthcare, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotechnology products. The University of South Carolina is a Mission Partner of SCBIO and has been highly instrumental in helping the rapid growth of life sciences in the Palmetto State.
Recently retired as USC’s 28th president, Dr. Pastides has led the school’s eight institutions in 19 locations to high achievement and growth. He took USC’s helm in 2008, launching an unprecedented construction expansion of more than $1 billion in projects, and growing student enrollment by 25 percent to more than 51,000 students. Under his tenure, the USC Honors College has risen to the No. 1 public honors college in the nation and celebrated increased research funding and top rankings in undergraduate and graduate international business, public health, engineering and nursing. In 2016, Dr. Pastides became one of seven Fulbright alumni to receive the inaugural Global Changemaker Award in recognition of his ongoing commitment to transform society and humanity through his work. Before joining USC as dean of the Arnold School of Public Health, Dr. Pastides was chairman of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He received two masters’ degrees and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Yale University. The award was presented by Hank Jibaja, CIO of sponsoring organization Nephron Pharmaceuticals.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Organizational Contribution to the industry was AVX Corporation of Fountain Inn, represented by Robert J. Fairey, Vice President of the Medical Division of AVX Corporation. A Mission Partner of SCBIO, AVX components are used in most implantable life support devices globally, and the company is expanding its passive component and interconnect product portfolio to serve other segments of the medical electronics industry. With over 20 years’ experience supplying electronic components to the medical device industry, AVX offers leading technology, reliability and a deep understanding of the requirements set forth from the medical industry. AVX’s quality systems lead the industry and support customer-specific change control, documentation, specifications and testing procedures.
A South Carolina native and Clemson University graduate with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Management, Mr. Fairey serves as Vice President, Medical Division for AVX Corporation in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. For over 25 years, he has been involved in developing, manufacturing and marketing capacitors and other AVX components for pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and other lifesaving and life-enhancing products.
Presented with the South Carolina Life Sciences Pinnacle Award for Individual Contribution to the industry was Dr. Jerry Youkey, recently retired EVP and Chief Academic Officer of Prisma Health and Founding Dean of the USC School of Medicine – Greenville. Dr. Youkey joined Greenville Health System (now Prisma) in 1998 and was responsible for expansion of the health system’s research and education activities, creation of its 1200 physician group practice, progressive integration of hospital-physician patient care, and for the growing USC health sciences presence in the Upstate. Dr. Youkey previously served as chief of the department of surgery at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania and in the United States Army Medical Corps where he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Certified by the American Board of Surgery in general vascular surgery, he is a member of numerous professional societies and widely published. On September 30, 2019 he was designated Founding Dean Emeritus by the University of South Carolina. In recognition of his transformative health care leadership, Governor Henry McMaster conferred upon Dr. Youkey the Order of the Palmetto for his contributions to the state of South Carolina.
The three honorees joined such noted speakers as Johnson & Johnson Innovation leader Michal Preminger, Medtronic VP of Value-Based Partnerships Christian Howell, South Carolina Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, President Jim Clements of Clemson University and more than 50 additional national speakers at SCBIO 2019 – the annual conference which gathers thought leaders and executives from life sciences organizations across the nation annually.
The record 450 attendees who filled Hyatt Regency Greenville included scores of top industry chief executives, leaders in government and higher education, biotechnology and pharma executives, clinicians and researchers, and industry supporters from across America including IQVIA Institute of Human Data Science’s Murray Aitken, EY’s NextWave Wellness and life sciences experts Kim Ramko and Kenny O’Neill, Thomas Hardaway of PhRMA, Prisma Health’s President & CEO Mark O’Halla, and numerous others.
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 life sciences industry is a significant driver of South Carolina’s growing knowledge economy, and these honorees and this conference are testament to the industry’s growing impact, reach and rapidly rising economic significance in our state and region,” noted SCBIO President and CEO Sam Konduros. “We’re pleased to honor them for their many contributions and salute them for the advances they have facilitated for this industry.”
As the official state affiliate of BIO, PhRMA and AdvaMed, SCBIO members include hundreds of academic institutions, biotech companies, medtech companies, entrepreneurial organizations, service providers, thought leaders, economic development organizations and related groups whose members are leading the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental products that transform how we heal, fuel and feed the world.
For additional information on SCBIO, visit www.SCBIO.org.
AVX Corporation is a leading international manufacturer and supplier of advanced electronic components, interconnect, sensing, control, and antenna solutions with 29 manufacturing facilities in 16 countries around the world. AVX offers a broad range of devices including capacitors, resistors, filters, couplers, sensors, controls, circuit protection devices, connectors, and antennas. The company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:AVX).
Prisma Health acquires two hospitals in South Carolina see more
Prisma Health-Midlands will acquire two Midlands health systems through an agreement announced Thursday. The 1.2 million-patient healthcare provider, headquartered in Greenville, has
purchased LifePoint Health’s Camden-based KershawHealth and Columbia’s Providence Health systems with plans to extend its Midlands network.
“We are delighted at the prospect of welcoming the Providence and KershawHealth teams to the Prisma Health family,” Mark O’Halla, president and chief executive officer of Prisma Health, said in a news release. “Providence and KershawHealth are known to share our commitment to improving patient experiences, clinical quality and access to care. We look forward to continuing our mutual goal of enhancing the health of our communities.”
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Through integration of KershawHealth and Providence Health, Prisma Health plans to target clinical expansion in areas including pediatric, orthopedic, women’s health and cardiovascular care, according to the release.
Providence Health will bring two hospitals, a freestanding emergency room, sleep centers, cardiac rehab facilities, outpatient therapy centers and a number of network practices into Prisma’s fold, the release said. Kershaw Health serves four cities through its Camden medical center, Elgin outpatient and urgent care center, West Wateree Medical Complex, sleep diagnostics center and therapy facility, now operated by Prisma Health.
“Ensuring that we maintain access to healthcare in South Carolina’s rural communities has been a priority of my administration, but we’ve always known that the private sector would be our most important partners in reaching that goal,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in the release. “This proposed acquisition would provide new opportunities to enhance clinical quality and improve access to affordable care for patients in the Midlands and beyond, but it also shows that Prisma Health is committed to the communities it serves, and for that, we should all be grateful.”
Source: GSA Business Report
Prisma Health, USC to collaborate on innovations see more
The University of South Carolina and Prisma Health – the state’s largest not-for-profit health organization – are announcing a partnership that aims to encourage the development and implementation of innovative health care delivery models, medical devices, digital health applications, and treatments for diseases.
Under the arrangement, which was approved by UofSC’s Board of Trustees on February 21, the University’s Office of Economic Engagement will assist Prisma Health – along with the UofSC Schools of Medicine in Columbia and Greenville – in identifying opportunities to develop mutually beneficial relationships with industry partners, bridging the gap between Prisma Health’s cutting-edge health research and the development of new technologies that help patients.
“At Prisma Health, we strive to go beyond treating diseases or their symptoms and aim to find cures and to design medical devices and digital capabilities that allow us to restore and transform lives,” said Mark O’Halla, President and Chief Executive Officer at Prisma Health. “Harnessing our expertise and that of the University of South Carolina together will help us accelerate our ability to address society’s most significant health challenges.“
Specifically, Prisma Health and UofSC will collaborate on a number of opportunities, including intellectual property patents and technology transfer support, operations development, cybersecurity, institutional insights, and strategic planning – all towards the shared goal of furthering research and innovation towards improving treatments and health care delivery. At its core, this partnership will drive innovation through UofSC’s extended successes delivering education, mentoring programs, and incubation asset development, as well as Prisma Health’s experience in leveraging its clinical and non-clinical expertise in the health care market, to drive innovations from benchside prototypes to clinical outcomes.
“This strengthens the outstanding partnership that already exists with Prisma Health. We are greatly committed to addressing the health needs of all South Carolina residents, and working together with Prisma in academics, research and patient care will make a real difference,” said UofSC President Bob Caslen.
As the state’s flagship university, UofSC is uniquely suited to help Prisma Health develop research or innovation partnerships that can lead to higher healthcare outcomes for patients across the state. This new relationship builds off of previous partnerships the university had with Prisma Health and its legacy predecessors, Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health, before they combined in 2019 to form Prisma Health.
“We have an extensive history of facilitating and supporting innovation efforts across multiple sectors,” said Bill Kirkland, executive director of UofSC’s Office of Economic Engagement. “Through this partnership with Prisma Health, we will now apply our commercialization and entrepreneurial successes to healthcare and life sciences. While this relationship will bear fruit for both insitutions, the real winners are the people of South Carolina, who stand to benefit from better access to care, innovative treatments, and the latest applications of research.”
“Prisma Health is committed to improving the health of South Carolinians,” said Brenda Thames, Prisma Health chief academic executive officer. “We are adapting to an ever-changing and increasingly challenging healthcare environment by becoming a learning health system that adopts rapid cycle innovation processes. While research provides the mechanism for evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of existing care models, innovation allows us to develop and improve new care models.”
Dr. David Cull, Prisma Health vice president of clinical and academic integration, added, “Through this partnership, we will create, test, and implement innovative initiatives that challenge the status quo and have the potential to reduce the cost of care, improve quality, and increase access to healthcare services.”
Clemson, Prisma Health to collaborate on developing new medical treatments see more
Researchers at Clemson University and Prisma Health have received funding to collaborate on the development of new medical treatment and diagnostic technologies.
Three Clemson-Prisma Health collaborations received investments from the recently created Innovation Maturation Fund, a joint effort between the Health Sciences Center (HSC) at Prisma Health and the Clemson University Division of Research. The program provides health care-focused grants designed to advance the development and commercialization of innovative medical initiatives and translational science, to improve the health care industry and to promote economic growth in the region.
The projects supported by this fund include a system to monitor triggers affecting respiratory health, injectable tissue regeneration technology and a monitoring device for patients with chronic kidney disease.
This year’s Innovation Maturation Fund awards range from $20,000 to $35,000 and were granted to:
Brian Booth, assistant professor in the department of bioengineering, and Jeffery Edenfield, medical director at the Prisma Health Institute for Translational Oncology Research (ITOR), to further develop a collagen-type medical implant that could greatly aid in breast tissue regeneration post-lumpectomy and prevent the recurrence of tumors.
Goutam Koley, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Steve Snodgrass, pediatric pulmonologist, to develop a mobile sensor system that monitors environmental triggers for respiratory health issues that are especially prevalent in patients with respiratory illnesses. The monitoring system will utilize a battery powered miniaturized sensor system with cellular data connectivity that can be carried in person to continuously monitor specific environmental parameters for an individual.
Robert Latour, McQueen-Quattlebaum Professor in the department of bioengineering, and Sudha Garimella, clinical assistant professor in the School of Health Research and medical director of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology and Hypertension at Prisma Health–Upstate, t0 continue to develop ammonia breath-test sensors that can be used by patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to measure the ammonia concentration in their exhaled breath. This technology would enable patients with CKD to monitor their physiologic status within the comfort of their own homes.
Managed by the Clemson University Research Foundation, the goal of the fund is to increase applied research collaborations between Clemson faculty, graduate students and Prisma Health clinicians and to promote ideation and design of medical technology innovations that are attractive for commercialization.
“The Innovation Maturation Fund is a special funding program that was developed in conjunction with the Clemson Division of Research and Prisma Health to target unmet needs in the health care industry,” said Chris Gesswein, executive director of the Clemson University Research Foundation. “I am excited to be able to participate in granting the first round of funds to deserving researchers through this new program. An important step towards fostering and supporting innovation in health sciences, with this program we have the unique opportunity to accelerate the commercialization of medical technologies in an effort to create a more self-sustaining model for promoting growth in health care.”
“Prisma Health is excited to partner with Clemson University to engage companies and researchers in developing the next innovative breakthroughs in healthcare,” said Cody Reynolds, technology transfer manager in the Office of Innovation at Prisma Health-Upstate. “The Innovation Maturation Fund provides early-stage technical solutions to clinical opportunities and access to clinical learning environments that will equip researchers with the tools necessary to successfully obtain public and private funding.”
Clemson's Martine LaBerge shapes students, future through ehr work see more
Martine LaBerge said that in her 17 years leading Clemson University’s bioengineering department, she has learned something about leadership that she passes on to colleagues who are just starting down the same path.
“I tell them it’s all about people,” she said. “You get people aligned under one roof to believe in one brand and to have a mission that is focused on something other than themselves.”
A new award has brought leadership sharply into focus for LaBerge, who has served as chair of the bioengineering department since 2002.
The Biomedical Engineering Society recently honored LaBerge with the inaugural Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. The honor recognizes her extraordinary service to the society through volunteering and leadership.
It’s the latest of many milestones in a career devoted to advancing the field of bioengineering and turning Clemson’s bioengineering department into a powerhouse of education and research.
“Dr. LaBerge epitomizes the kind of leadership we seek at Clemson,” said Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “For our future success it is vital to look at what she has accomplished in bioengineering as a benchmark and instill a similar passion in the next generation. If we do this well, it will strengthen Clemson for decades to come.”
LaBerge has helped establish new collaborations with the likes of Arthrex, Prisma Health and the Medical University of South Carolina. She has had a hand in hiring all but one of the department’s 30 faculty members, and she has worked with them to develop new curricula.
LaBerge was at the helm when a 29,000-square-foot annex was added to Rhodes Engineering Research Center. And she played a central role in establishing the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, also called CUBEInC.
The department’s faculty, with LaBerge’s support, lead two separate Centers of Biomedical Excellence, together representing $37 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Clemson ranks fourth this year among the nation’s best value schools for biomedical engineering, according to bestvalueschools.com. And in a separate ranking by U.S News & World Report, Clemson ranked 21st among biomedical engineering programs at public universities nationwide.
I.V. Hall, a former master’s student under LaBerge who is now on the department’s advisory board, said she has the ability to get people to buy into a vision and deliver what it takes to make it happen.
“Her influence and her passion are the reasons the department is where it is,” said Hall, who is worldwide president for the DePuy Synthes Trauma, Craniomaxillofacial and Extremities Division. “She personifies Clemson bioengineering.”
Throughout her career, LaBerge has remained in touch with students and their needs.
The commitment to students made an impression on Margarita Portilla, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in bioengineering.
“Dr. LaBerge is very close and always interacting with her students,” Portilla said. “I was always fascinated with her. As an undergraduate, I told my friends, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like Dr. LaBerge.’”
One of LaBerge’s guiding principles is summed up in the department’s motto, “exemplifying collegiality.”
At the start of each semester, she asks faculty to reflect on how collegial they are, using a short questionnaire and meter they can use to assess themselves. She also gives students a wallet-size card with the department’s mission, vision and goals, underscored by the motto in capital orange letters.
LaBerge calls it their “credit card to graduate and be successful in life.”
She said that what she likes best about her job is mentoring faculty, networking, building Clemson’s academic reputation and working with students.
“There is no better professional than a Clemson bioengineering student,” LaBerge said. “It’s because of the way we educate them. They’re honest, and they have integrity. Our kids leave with emotional intelligence, because they see people doing it. We teach by example, and we lead by example. And I think everybody in this department is like that.”
Nicole Meilinger, a senior bioengineering major, credits LaBerge with helping open several opportunities for her.
She said that LaBerge encouraged her to apply for a three-semester rotation at CUBEInC through the Cooperative Education Program. The position put Meilinger into contact with some of the department’s industry partners and gave her the chance to conduct research.
Meilinger said her work was published, and she had the opportunity to present her findings at conferences.
LaBerge also introduced Meilinger to a class on developing and selling medical devices and recommended her for an Arthrex scholarship, which she received. Meilinger said that she has secured an internship with Arthrex and plans to start after graduating in May.
“I came into bioengineering not knowing what I wanted to do, and Dr. LaBerge has been the biggest mentor in helping me find different career paths,” Meilinger said. “She’s always helping us in ways you can’t even imagine.”
LaBerge, who is originally from Canada, arrived at Clemson as an assistant professor in 1990. She remembers having offers from other U.S. schools within a year. Two years after she arrived at Clemson, she interviewed to be an astronaut, she said.
“That was when they were working on the space station,” LaBerge said. “Canada needed a couple of astronauts. I went through the interview process.”
Ultimately, another candidate was chosen, and LaBerge said that she admired and followed his career.
What has kept her at Clemson for nearly decades are the opportunities in the department.
“Larry Dooley (retired bioengineering chair and Clemson vice president of research) was a big mentor of mine,” LaBerge said. “He always saw positive, he always saw growth, he always saw big. I’m the kind of person who does not like to sit down. I like big things to look after. So, I think Larry was very instrumental with this.”
LaBerge has held numerous leadership positions in professional organizations, including president of the Society of Biomaterials, member of the Biomedical Engineering Society Board of Directors and chair of the Council of Chairs of Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering in the U.S. and Canada.
In Clemson, her leadership positions included seven months in 2013 as acting dean of what was then the College of Engineering and Science, before the current dean, Anand Gramopadhye took the helm.
“Dr. LaBerge’s passion inspires students, faculty and staff to aspire to greater heights, learn more and achieve to the best of their abilities,” Gramopadhye said. “The Department of Bioengineering is thriving under her leadership. Further, she has exhibited leadership in key professional organizations, helping enhance Clemson’s national reputation in bioengineering. I congratulate her on the Herbert Voigt Distinguished Service Award. It is richly deserved.”
Two SC organizations have launched a new investment fund designed to boost health care innovation see more
GREENVILLE, South Carolina — Two leading South Carolina organizations have launched a new investment fund designed to boost health care innovation in the state. The Clemson University Division of Research and the Health Sciences Center (HSC) at Prisma Health recently signed agreements to fund up to $200,000 per year in grants through the new Innovation Maturation Fund.
The health care-focused grants are intended to advance the development and implementation of new medical initiatives, advance translational science, create job and educational opportunities, improve health care and drive economic growth in the region.
“This is an important step to support health sciences research in our state,” said David Sudduth, vice president and chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health. “While we have a strong history of academic, research and innovation partnership in the Upstate through the Health Sciences Center, this is the first of what we hope will be many grant-making opportunities designed with our academic partners in order to support our community.”
“Pairing Clemson University’s health research and bioengineering capabilities with Prisma Health’s industry-leading clinical environment provides an incredible opportunity for the development of medical technologies and initiatives that will improve health care for South Carolinians and many others,” said Tanju Karanfil, Clemson University vice president for research. “I am excited to see the ideas and impactful innovations that stem from this partnership.”
The fund will be managed by the Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF), which manages the process of moving Clemson’s hundreds of innovative technologies from the laboratory into commercial markets. CURF has awarded more than $870,000 in maturation funds to Clemson researchers across academic disciplines since the launch of a similar fund in 2014. Those funds have led to startup companies, new technologies available for license and follow-on research investments.
The new Innovation Maturation Fund — launched in cooperation with the HSC and Prisma Health — is the first such fund targeted exclusively toward researchers in the health sciences.
“We look forward to working with Prisma Health to leverage this fund to advance promising medical technologies from ideation through initial phases of translational product development,” said Chris Gesswein, executive director of CURF. “By identifying and targeting unmet clinical needs early in the research process, we have a wonderful opportunity to impact successful downstream commercialization of technologies developed and matured through this Innovation Maturation Fund.”
Prisma Health clinicians, Clemson research faculty and graduate students are eligible for grant funds. Applications for the first round of grants will be accepted this fall. For more information, click here.
Innovation Maturation Fund Partners
The Clemson University Research Foundation (CURF) is an independent 501(c)3 organization and was created to support the Clemson University research enterprise, guiding Clemson researchers through the technology transfer process by identifying, protecting, and developing university intellectual property. CURF is committed to creating a sustainable model for research by connecting Clemson researchers to external organizations and identifying opportunities for research collaboration to feed back into Clemson University.
The Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health is a collaboration between Prisma Health, Clemson University, Furman University and University of South Carolina. Located on the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus, this nationally recognized center seeks to bridge the gap between academics, research, clinical practice and health care transformation in a way that is innovative, inter-institutional, interprofessional and interdisciplinary. Regional community, education and business leaders also participate in the Health Sciences Center’s shared governance.
Prisma Health, a not-for-profit health company, is committed to excellence in patient care, clinical research and teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Our organization – South Carolina’s largest private employer – was formed when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together in late 2017, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With 32,000 team members (including volunteers), 18 hospitals and over 300 physician practice sites, we serve more than 1.2 million patients annually – about a quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our cardiovascular, neuroscience, OB/GYN, oncology and orthopedic programs attract patients throughout the region. Also noteworthy are our two renowned children’s hospitals, comprehensive diabetes care and extensive primary care network. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and families, our team members and guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Learn more at PrismaHealth.org.
Prisma Health-Upstate’s Cancer Institute Awarded $8 million NCI grant to expand clinical trials for cancer treatmentsClinical trials are saving lives in South Carolina see more
When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2011, Jimmy Alexander wasn’t expected to live more than a year.
So doctors enrolled him in a clinical trial of a new chemotherapy cocktail hoping it might make a difference.
Eight years later, the Simpsonville man is still enjoying Clemson football and time with his family, including two daughters, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
And now the program that helped Alexander is being expanded into the Midlands with an $8.2 million grant awarded Friday by the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Program, or NCORP.
“People just don’t realize what clinicals may be able to do,” Alexander said. “They can be a lifesaver.”
Clinical trials are conducted to determine whether a treatment works while offering patients a shot at experimental therapies that aren’t otherwise available through normal channels.
They provide physicians with new weapons in the battle against cancer, said Dr. Larry Gluck, medical director of Prisma Health-Upstate’s Cancer Institute in Greenville, which was awarded the grant.
“Because of our NCI designation and support,” he said, “we can offer hundreds of leading-edge clinical trials that can provide treatments to patients years before approval by the FDA for general use.”
More than 300 clinical trials are underway at Prisma’s Cancer Institute at any time and the hospital has been awarded more than $30 million in NCI grants since 1995, according to Prisma, formerly Greenville Health System.
“What we learn from one patient helps that patient – but also many many more,” said Dr. Jeff Giguere, a Prisma oncologist.
“A unique aspect of research via the NCORP grant is that it interrogates every point on the cancer continuum from diagnosis, treatment, supportive care," he said, "as well as proactively evaluates cancer prevention and more effective and efficient ways of delivering cancer care.”
The latest six-year grant will enable trials for lymphoma, leukemia and solid tumors to begin in the Midlands this fall.
“Our goal ... is to continue to serve our Upstate patients with strengthened options here and extend our reach and expertise to the legacy Palmetto Health institutions via Prisma Health,” said Giguere. “We hope to meet an unmet need for our state.”
There was no guarantee when Alexander was enrolled in the trial that he would benefit from the drugs. But the 78-year-old said he would have participated anyway in case it would help others.
“If whatever I am doing helps other people, I was glad to do it,” he said. “But here I am eight years later.”
Alexander said his cancer is stable, thanks to a weekly infusion of a drug called Erbitux, which is provided through the trial.
Fortunately, the retired engineer was able to live to see a great-granddaughter born seven months ago.
“I’m doing pretty good. The only problem I have is old age,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m still around to play with her. It’s a great, great thing.”
Clemson, Prisma health professionals working to develop early cancer screening test see more
When her younger brother was diagnosed with cancer, Clemson bioengineering professor Terri Bruce re solved to tap her knowledge of human cells to find a way to help others suffering from the dis ease. After devouring all the scientific literature she could, she chose to focus on developing a screening test to detect the disease in its earliest stages when it has a better chance of being cured.
“It was a time in my life when I felt helpless,” she told The Greenville News.
“And I felt there’s got to be something I can do — even if I can’t help Greg — to help other people.”
Because he suffered from brain cancer, she looked to another form of the disease that wasn’t as emotionally entangled but had no early screening tests. She decided on ovarian cancer.
Now Bruce and her research team are on the brink of a test that they believe could be a screening tool — not only for ovarian cancer, but other cancers too.
“The hope,” she said, “is to ... catch this deadly cancer much earlier and give women a fighting chance.”
Ovarian cancer will strike 22,530 women this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and about 14,000 will die of the disease.
But only about one in five cases is discovered early because there are no reliable screening tests, the society reports.
A late diagnosis reduces survival. And because the symptoms are so vague, about three quarters of all women are diagnosed at a late stage, said Dr. Larry Puls, the director of gynecologic oncology at Prisma Health Cancer Institute.
Only 10% to 15% of them will survive long-term. And overall survival numbers haven’t changed much in 40 years, he said.
Though blood work can test for a protein that can identify some ovarian cancers, only half of stage 1 patients test positive for it, Puls said.
“One of the things that has eluded us in ovarian cancer is that we have no screening for it,” he said. “But if you can find it when it’s confined to just the ovary alone, 90% of patients beat their cancer.
“If we could shift women out of stage 3 and into stage 1,” he added, “we can make a huge impact on this disease.”
For some time, Bruce has been studying exosomes, which are microscopic droplets found in body fluids that were traditionally regarded as a way for cells to rid themselves of debris.
But further research revealed that they contain parts of the cell they are from as well as proteins that can serve as biomarkers of what’s going on in that cell, she said.
Cancer often develops because something goes awry in the DNA, leading to aberrant proteins and tumor growth, she said. So she theorized that finding those protein signatures in exosomes could be a way to diagnose cancer.
“If we can find those aberrant protein signatures and see them on the cells and exosomes,” she said, “ ... it potentially could be used for any type of cancer, as long as you find the biomarker.”
The process has the potential to be used as a diagnostic tool for other diseases as well, she said.
So Bruce approached Clemson chemistry professor Ken Marcus, who’d been separating whole human cells for years using fiber strips, and asked if he could separate exosomes.
“I said, ‘I don’t even know what they are,’ ” he recalls with a chuckle.
“But she got us some samples and in pretty short order ... we made some really good educated guesses and it worked.”
Marcus and his “very talented students” were not only able to separate the exosomes, but reduced the time needed to do it from 2 1 / 2 hours to 8 min utes using a test strip made of a polymer that is grooved much like the top of a zip lock bag.
When fluid is added, it flows down the channels where it interacts with different antibodies that in turn isolate the exosomes, he said, much the way a pregnancy test works.
Catching it early
Bruce and Marcus were then introduced to Puls, who joined the research team.
He’s collecting samples of cervical fluid containing exosomes and proteins obtained at the same time as a pap test. So far, 49 women have been tested with the strip, Puls said, and two who had no symptoms and normal blood tests were revealed to have stage 1 ovarian cancer.
“That’s the patient we covet the most because we cure 90% of those patients,” he said.
Puls also hopes the test will one day detect precancerous changes, enabling doctors to surgically remove the tissue — like they do when a pap test reveals a precancerous change — and prevent the development of cancer in the first place.
While the initial data will be crunched in the next few weeks, Puls said he’s optimistic that the test could be a promising new tool in the battle against ovarian cancer.
He hopes the test could be used to screen for uterine cancer as well, which strikes another 63,000 women a year.
The Holy Grail for the process, Marcus said, would be a urine test because it can show what’s going on inside the whole body. But the first step is testing cervical fluid in the doctor’s office.
“And even that is an infinite step up from where we are today,” he said.
Because tumors can be caused by a variety of proteins, the test will look for a bank of markers in an effort to capture more cancers, said Bruce, who is also director of Clemson’s Light Imaging Facility.
“I think we’re close on getting some kind of screening tool,” she said. “And we’re in the process now of (getting) all the patents.”
So far, the research has been privately funded, but the team plans to use their initial data to apply for federal grants to continue their work.
They estimate a test could be ready for market in about five years.
Carmen Brotherton hopes the test will be routine in her daughter and grand-daughters’ lifetimes.
The Easley woman’s ovarian cancer was discovered in 2009, making her one of the few to be diagnosed in stage 1.
“I’ve lost some good friends ... who weren’t caught in time,” said Brotherton, who volunteers with the South Carolina Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
“It’s always been one of my prayers that some day they would come up with something that would catch it,” she said.
“This is just a small place compared to the U.S. or the rest of the world. Imagine how many women this could catch. And it might save their lives.”
When Bruce’s brother was diagnosed in 2012, little could be done to stop the progress of the cancer, she said. He died in January, leaving his two sons fatherless.
Now she hopes the test will one day mean that fewer people will be left without a parent like her nephews.
“In conjunction with the discovery of distinct biomarkers, the fibers could lead to finding diseases such as ovarian cancer — and brain cancer — much earlier,” she said.
“Early enough, I hope, to save many lives in the future.”
Prisma Health has named its new President and CEO see more
Prisma Health announced the selection of Mark S. O’Halla as the health company’s new president and chief executive officer (CEO). O’Halla, along with the members of the executive leadership team, will be responsible for advancing the health company’s goal to create a better state of health in South Carolina by improving clinical quality, the patient experience, access to care, and addressing rising health care costs. O’Halla will join Prisma Health in mid-August. Prisma Health is a Mission Partner of SCBIO, the life sciences organization of South Carolina.
O’Halla has been serving as executive vice president/chief operating officer of Michigan-based McLaren Health Care since 2014. He has more than 30 years of progressive experience in health care senior executive roles, including 13 years with the McLaren organization.
The board of directors was pleased with the high-quality candidates they reviewed for this important role. “We are honored to select Mark as our next leader. We believe his experience leading a multiregional health care system will be a critical element in ensuring Prisma Health continues its journey to transform health care for our communities. We look forward to working with Mark to ensure that South Carolinians get the quality health care they need and deserve,” said James E. “Rick” Wheeler, chair of the Prisma Health board of directors and vice president of M-D Metal Source.
O’Halla added, “Joining Prisma Health and its 32,000 team members is an exciting opportunity to help redefine and continue improving health care for patients in South Carolina. I am proud to be part of this vibrant new health company, focused on providing exemplary quality, smart growth and sustained financial strength. I am also excited to work with physicians and university partners to advance its academic mission.”
As the executive vice president/chief operating officer at McLaren Health Care, a 14-hospital system with two health insurance plans covering 583,000 lives, O’Halla spearheaded initiatives to achieve top performance in areas of financial, operating and clinical quality, created a standardized patient-centered focus across the system that improved patient satisfaction, directed the alignment and growth of its Medical Group, and led efforts to integrate various clinical and administrative elements of the health system.
O’Halla earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio; and master’s degree in Business Administration from William E. Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York. He is active in several health care organizations including American College of Healthcare Executives and served on several community boards.
O’Halla and his wife, Anita, will be relocating to Greenville, South Carolina. They have three grown children.
In January, Prisma Health launched the national search for its new CEO to lead the organization formed by the partnership of South Carolina’s largest health care systems, Greenville Health System (GHS), now Prisma Health–Upstate and Palmetto Health, now Prisma Health–Midlands.
Physicians who participated in O’Halla’s selection look forward to working with him as Prisma Health’s first president and CEO.
The current Co-CEOs, Michael C. Riordan, former CEO of Greenville Health System and Charles D. Beaman Jr., former CEO of Palmetto Health, have been working together over the last two years to set a strong foundation of governance and leadership for Prisma Health. Six months ago, Beaman and Riordan began focusing on specific areas to ensure Prisma Health was operating efficiently. Riordan has been responsible for driving several strategic projects to position the organization for long-term success, including facilitating the CEO search. On Friday, May 31, he will conclude his final project and fulfill his commitment to the organization, at which time he will retire from Prisma Health. Beaman has been focused on Prisma Health operations and will fulfill his commitment to the organization and step down from Prisma Health upon O’Halla’s arrival.
About Prisma Health
Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and South Carolina’s largest private employer. We are committed to excellence in providing patient care, conducting clinical research and teaching the next generation of physicians, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals. Our organization was formed in late 2017 when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With nearly 32,000 team members, 18 hospitals and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million patients annually – about one quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by improving clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our groundbreaking programs in cardiovascular, diabetes, neuroscience, oncology and orthopedics care – as well as our two renowned Children’s Hospitals – attract patients from throughout the Southeast. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and their families, our team members and our guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.
Center for Cancer Prevention and Wellness Aims to Identify, Prevent Cancer at Earliest Molecular DevelopmentPrisma Health Center aims to identify, prevent cancer... see more
As someone familiar with the devastation of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, Steve Johnson has long been an advocate for knowing his own risks for developing the disease. So when a genetic test revealed he carried a BRCA1 gene mutation, a high indicator for breast cancer, he suggested his three daughters get tested as well. But when two of the three tested positive for the gene, and subsequent tests revealed one had developed breast cancer at a barely detectable point, knowledge of the family’s risk factors became truly life-saving.
An innovative new initiative at the Prisma Health Cancer Institute aims to help people like the Johnsons identify and manage their risk factors for cancer, examining links between lifestyle, genetics and cancer formation, with the goal of eventually preventing cancer at its earliest molecular development.