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  • sam patrick posted an article
    Upstate company makes its mark see more

    Compliments of Upstate Business Journal

    Ahh, that fresh, crisp aroma of a craft beer — your tongue tingles at the first whiff. The concoction in question may have the fragrance of a  “juicy, double-dry-hopped IPA,” a popular locally brewed label on tap here, but Do-Not-Drink-This-Stuff. It’s hand sanitizer.

    “It was like, wow, this stuff actually still smells like Bluprint, one of our IPAs,” says Shawn Johnson, co-owner of Birds Fly South Ale Project, which teamed with Parimer Scientific at the onset of the pandemic to make a pharmaceutical-grade product for local health care providers. 

    Which is why the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership recognized Parimer last November with an SCMEP COVID-19 Response Award. In  September, the South Carolina Research Authority bestowed Parimer a coveted “Member Company” status, noting that the company shipped more than 10,000 pharmaceutical units in 2020.

    Dick Pace, 33, owner and principal scientist, launched the company three years ago. Today, Parimer, which is known as a “contract research organization,” provides turnkey chemical solutions, custom compounds, polymers and way more complicated stuff, along with R&D. 

    Customers, so far, have included farmers and academia and now Big Pharma, Pace says. Within six months, Parimer was operating in the black and has grown from its $3,000 in startup costs to more than $600,000 annually, he says. 

    Mike Klepfer, Parimer’s vice president of business development, joined the company in July. The Air Force veteran, who has lived in the Upstate for 21 years, has worked for the likes of Bayer and Merck.

    After the pandemic forced Klepfer to close his 4-year-old executive-recruitment shop, he arrived at Parimer when the company’s year-over-year growth was already around 25%, he says. Now, with mega-deals in the pipeline from marquee companies — all under non-disclosure agreements — he sees near-term growth upwards of 100%.

    Quite a pace for Pace, who found himself overqualified to work as a scientist in his native Greenville after earning his Ph.D. in bioengineering from Clemson in 2014. This even though he had already published at least nine papers and presented at conferences from Denver to Paris. He also worked at the French version of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (he speaks fluent French) and on NIH and Department of Defense grants, among other accomplishments.

    “We are excited to partner with Parimer on their growth path. The specialty laboratory services they are offer is unique to the Greenville area and they are one of only two operations in South Carolina approved as an active pharmaceutical-Ingredient manufacturer. ” — Steve Johnson, South Carolina Research Authority investment manager

    He applied for 250 jobs. Two companies responded, he says, their highest salary offers coming in at $35,000 a year. “I felt that I had skills to offer, but I wasn’t able to market those, and the pay rate is so low for Ph.D. scientists, so I thought, how hard would it be to make $40K on my own?” Now he hires young scientists in similar straits, while he also avoids the entrepreneurial pitfalls — and failures — he saw in multiple life sciences startups.

    “People were buying this extremely expensive equipment and they were having to hire scientists to run it,” he says. “And almost always, the senior owners of these companies were venture capitalists.”

    Among his hires is Victoria Bobo. In 2015, she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Converse College (now University), then her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 2020. Like Pace, she wanted to stay and work in her native Upstate.

    “I had the misfortune of graduating during the pandemic when no one was hiring,” says Bobo, 28, who joined Parimer after sending out, according to Pace, some 150 job applications.

    Bobo is Parimer’s “Quality Chemist.” But like her three colleagues at the Easley lab, she does everything else there, too.

    As Klepfer says, “We all take the trash out each week and we vacuum the floors and clean the lab and do all the stuff that needs to be done to maintain the business.”

    “We’re totally happy,” Pace says. “It’s doing what we’re doing and not making, you know, $300K. Maybe one day, but not yet. I started this to basically provide myself a job, and now we’re able to provide others a job, and that’s really, really rewarding.”

    The quick Pace of delivering FDA-grade hand sanitizer

    Dick Pace recalls driving to Birds Fly South Ale Project at the outset of the pandemic to load his truck with 500 gallons of beer and bring it to his laboratory.

    At Parimer Scientific in Easley, where he is owner and principal scientist, his team concocted a hand sanitizer that would meet FDA specifications for use in hospitals—at a pharmaceutical strength the agency categorizes as an over-the-country drug, Pace says.

    After winning FDA approval in just two weeks, Pace began frequenting Ace Hardware and Home Depot to build his own production line for distilling BFS’s beer to 95% alcohol, bottling the new product, labeling and shipping it.

    In roughly five weeks, with everyone scrambling for the stuff, Birds Fly South sold Parimer, at cost, somewhere around 180 barrels of nearly expired beer, says Shawn Johnson, owner of the Hampton Station craft brewer along with his wife, Lindsay.

    Pace says the two businesses—emphasis on local—churned out some 30,000 bottles until the big manufacturers finally stepped up.

    A bunch of those containers went to Greenville Office Supply.  Turns out, McLain Scales, the venerable company’s Director of Sales-Janitorial and Facility, grew up with Pace.

    GOS couldn’t sell below-FDA-grade product to its hospital clients and first-responder customers, among others, he says.

    “So we had to get creative with our partners, and fortunately Parimer Scientific had all the knowledge on how to manufacture it,” he says, adding that GOS ultimately sold more than 6,000 Parimer bottles — complete with the Birds Fly South logo.

    The Johnsons credit Parimer with helping keep their business afloat and some of their employees employed. They could also sell two-ounce bottles, which Parimer provided at cost, Lindsay says.

    Of Pace and their brief stint as hand-sanitizer partners, Shawn says, “It’s a testament to ingenuity — he’s an incredibly smart man — and to the agility of small business and the connection to the community.”

    Parimer Scientific’s team says their equipment room is one of the best equipped labs in SC, but to the untrained eye it doesn’t look like much. However, they are able to take any product or chemical and reverse engineer it to figure out exactly what it makes up.

    Pace’s Parimer People

    Mike Klepfer, vice president of Business Development 
    Worked in biotech, pharmaceuticals and medical device companies. Sales rep for such global med-tech giants as Stryker, Bayer and Merck
    Five years in the Air Force, leaving as captain, serving as a supply and logistics officer. Citadel graduate, class of 1995

    Victoria Bobo, quality chemist, joined Parimer in October 2020
    Ph.D.,  Analytical Chemistry — University of South Carolina, 2020
    Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, with a minor in Spanish — Converse College, 2015

    Stephen Lee, Research Manager at Parimer since November 2020
    M.S. in Chemistry — Georgia Tech, 2011.
    Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009.
    Adjunct instructor at Greenville Technical and Spartanburg Community colleges for more than a year each.
    Work experience includes technical assistant at Milliken & Co. and certifying scientist at LabSource in Greenville, among others.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Nephron steps up to support USC's planned reopening with donations of sanitizer see more

    Courtesy of Columbia Regional Business Report

    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.