Study Shows Typical Cancer-Free Survival Doubled for Recurrent Brain Cancer Patients when KIYATEC’s Test Informed Therapy SelectionFirst release of 3D-PREDICT clinical study data fuels momentum of company’s glioblastoma program see more
GREENVILLE, SC – December 17, 2020 – KIYATEC, Inc. today announced the first clinical use of its response-prediction test to improve outcomes in relapsed brain cancer patients. Test results that measure the effect of cancer drugs on a patient’s live cancer cells are available in just seven days, thereby enabling oncologists to select drugs informed by patient-specific evidence of response before treatment begins.
Lindsay Lipinski, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology and a neurosurgeon at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (Buffalo, NY), presented her and her colleagues’ findings at the 2020 Society of Neuro-Oncology meeting in November. A case series of seven patients with recurrent high-grade gliomas – six with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and one with anaplastic astrocytoma – was detailed.
“In this early experience, tools that can predict a tumor cell’s responsivity to a variety of chemotherapy or other therapeutic agents have already been extremely valuable in guiding treatment decision-making for patients with recurrent high-grade gliomas at our center,” said Dr. Lipinski. “Our results show that we are far along in the paradigm shift toward individualized medicine.”
Today, when these cancers return following a patient’s initial treatment, oncologists do not have evidence-based guidelines to choose which drug therapy to use next. Across several drug options, the typical expectation for the time in which these recurrent patients will remain cancer-free (i.e., median progression free survival or PFS) is only 4 months. The use of KIYATEC’s test results to inform drug selection approximately doubled the typical expectation, achieving a group median PFS of 7.9 months, a significant improvement over expected PFS in these patients.
KIYATEC’s test results informed two of the seven patients’ successful treatment with dabrafenib, a targeted agent. Notably, neither had a typically associated genetic mutation, demonstrating that the test can uncover effective drug options that would have normally been missed.
“Our vision is to successfully translate these study findings into the GBM population at large, including newly diagnosed patients – a population that we’re also actively enrolling and testing in our study,” said Matthew Gevaert, PhD, CEO of KIYATEC. “Today’s positive results in relapsed patients, with a median age of 60 and some having had two or even three relapses, paves the way to do this.”
This first release of data from KIYATEC’s active 3D-PREDICT (ClinicalTrials.gov ID NCT03561207) clinical study coincides with the continued addition of new sites at which high-grade glioma patients can enroll, bringing this study to nine institutions across the United States.
About KIYATEC, Inc.
KIYATEC leverages its proprietary ex vivo 3D cell culture technology platforms to accurately model and predict response to approved and investigational cancer drugs targeting a spectrum of solid tumors. The company’s Clinical Services business is currently engaged in the validation of clinical assays as well as investigator-initiated studies in ovarian cancer, breast cancer, glioblastoma and rare tumors, in its CLIA-certified laboratory. The company’s Drug Development Services business works in partnership with leading biopharmaceutical companies to unlock response dynamics for their investigational drug candidates across the majority of solid tumor types.
Lindsay Lipinski, et al., INNV-16. Clinical applicability of individualized drug response profiling utilizing ex-vivo tissue-derived 3D cell culture assays in high-grade glioma: a single institution case series using 3D-PREDICT results, Neuro-Oncology, Volume 22, Issue Supplement_2, November 2020, Pages ii119–ii120, https://doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/noaa215.499.
SE Life Sciences launches new initiative designed to expand clinical trial diversity see more
National polls show that anywhere from 51 percent to 64 percent of Americans would be willing to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
But the number is far lower for minorities.
Some 49 percent of African Americans and 37 percent of Hispanics say they won’t take the vaccine, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
About 39 percent of Blacks cited safety concerns in the poll, while 35 percent cited distrust of the health care system.
That distrust goes back decades to the Tuskegee Experiment, a federal study that allowed syphilis in Black men to go untreated so scientists could observe its progression.
And it affects the way many African Americans view the health system today, with low participation clinical trials - just 5 percent to 7 percent nationally – among the consequences, according to SE Life Sciences, a trade group representing life science companies in the Southeast.
EUA means help is on the way to millions worldwide as the first vaccine for COVID-19 is rolled out see more
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine, clearing its use after a historic 10-month research sprint and a rapid review that culminated Thursday with the endorsement of an independent advisory committee.
With the vaccine's authorization, millions of vulnerable U.S. residents could soon have a shot at protection from a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and sickened millions. Daily case counts and deaths have hit new highs in the weeks following Thanksgiving and more than 100,000 people are currently hospitalized.
Initial supplies, however, are extremely limited, forcing public health officials to prioritize which groups should receive the vaccine first. Healthcare workers and nursing home residents, who have fallen ill and died from COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers, are expected to begin receiving the vaccine within days, as Pfizer began manufacturing while clinical trials were still underway.
Some 2.9 million doses are expected to be available initially, with the U.S. holding some in reserve to ensure people receive the second of two doses that vaccination requires.
"While not an FDA approval, today's emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine holds the promise to alter the course of this pandemic in the United States," said Peter Marks, director of the FDA division that reviews vaccines, in a statement.
Authorization of a vaccine within a year of scientists identifying the new coronavirus is a scientific milestone that, at the pandemic's outset, looked unattainable.
"In my wildest dreams, I thought it would be fast. But fast means, if it [typically] takes seven years, maybe you can get it down to a couple of years," said Anthony Fauci, in a Dec. 11 interview with the editor of JAMA. "Now it's our challenge to convince people that this wasn't rushed in a reckless way."
Yet the FDA has been under immense pressure to speed an approval and, on Friday, the Trump administration reportedly told agency head Stephen Hahn to submit his resignation if Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine was not cleared by the end of the day. The vaccine was cleared by regulators in the U.K., Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico earlier this month.
The emergency use authorization, a special type of approval used in public health crises, came one day after a panel of FDA advisers voted 17-4 to recommend use of the shot.
Two of the four "no" votes came from committee members who wanted to recommend the vaccine only for people aged 18 or older, rather than include 16- and 17-year olds as the FDA had advocated. The FDA's final decision authorized its use for people as young as 16.
The regulator, along with its advisers, was persuaded by a massive trial that enrolled 44,000 people and randomly assigned them to receive either Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine or a placebo.
Trial results announced Nov. 18 showed the vaccine to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, easily surpassing the 50% threshold set by the FDA earlier this year. Vaccination was similarly protective in older adults and in individuals of different races or ethnicities, according to detailed data presented at Thursday's meeting.
"The data are pretty clear cut so it's a very straightforward decision," said Philip Grant, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford University Medical Center.
Importantly, Pfizer and BioNTech also proved their vaccine is safe, with no unexpected or serious adverse reactions observed in the study. Many participants did experience injection site pain, fever, headache and fatigue, generally mild or moderate in nature.
While the companies first reported positive results from their Phase 3 study on Nov. 9, they waited 11 more days before submitting an application in order to collect at least two months' of safety follow-up on half of trial participants. Most side effects to vaccines emerge within 40 to 60 days, which motivated the FDA to set the two-month requirement.
Four cases of Bell's palsy — temporary weakness or paralysis in one side of the face — were reported among trial volunteers who received the vaccine, three of which had resolved. FDA reviewers, however, noted the frequency was no greater than what would be expected in the general population.
Regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere are also on now watch for signs of allergic reactions to vaccination among individuals with a history of severe allergies, after two people in the U.K. had reactions after receiving their first shot. The authorization from the FDA instructs medical personnel not to give the vaccine to people who have a history of severe allergic reaction to any of its ingredients.
The emergency clearance for Pfizer and BioNTech's shot is expected to be followed quickly by one for a similar type of vaccine developed by Moderna. An advisory committee is scheduled to meet and vote on the company's application on Dec. 17.
Study results showed Moderna's vaccine, which was developed in collaboration with U.S. government scientists, to be similarly effective against COVID-19.
The shots' high efficacy could help convince skeptical portions of the public who have indicated in polls they'd be cautious or unlikely to get a vaccine.
"There will be less vaccine hesitancy in March than there will be in January, and then a lot less in May than in March," said Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and co-leader of a vaccine trial network.
It's still unclear, however, whether either vaccine can protect against infection and transmission, as well as disease. Data from Pfizer could come soon, however, Kathrin Jansen, the company's head of vaccine research and development, told the FDA's advisers Thursday.
Both companies have worked feverishly to scale up manufacturing in preparation for an approval, but both will only have limited supplies to offer the U.S. and other countries in which their vaccines are approved.
Pfizer and BioNTech, which make their vaccine at sites in Michigan and in Puurs, Belgium, expect to make 50 million doses by the end of 2020, only some of which is reserved for use in the U.S. Production should ramp up considerably in 2021, when the two companies expect to manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses.
Moderna has said it can produce 20 million doses for the U.S. this month, and another 85 million to 100 million by the end of March.
The U.S. initially preordered 100 million doses of each vaccine, an amount that would cover less than a third of the U.S. population. According to The New York Times, the U.S. passed up its chance to order more doses from Pfizer under an option it had negotiated, although officials dispute the Times' account.
On Friday, Moderna announced the U.S. had agreed to purchase another 100 million doses for delivery in the second quarter of 2021. The U.S. also appears to be counting on approvals for several vaccines still in testing by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Deals with the three companies reserve some 500 million doses for the U.S.
Moncef Slaoui, the scientific leader of the U.S.'s "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine program, recently predicted 100 million U.S. residents will get a vaccine by the end of February — an ambitious target even if two shots are approved.
Further complicating roll-out plans are the temperature requirements for Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, which must be shipped and stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Pfizer built shipping containers that will use dry ice to keep doses cold, and is handling distribution on its own.
Dry ice has been in short supply this year, requiring logistics companies to beef up production to meet the demand of transporting vaccines.
Moderna's vaccine must also be kept cold, but at a more moderate minus 20 degrees Celsius.
SC company to play role in vaccine distribution see more
A South Carolina pharmaceutical company will play a huge role in getting a COVID-19 vaccine to the American people.
Columbia-based Ritedose Corporation announced Thursday it’s been named a partner in Operation Warp Speed and will be responsible for filling and packaging millions of vaccines.
ApiJect, a medical technology company that received $138 million from the federal government to produce the first 100 million COVID-19 vaccines, patented the vial in which the vaccine will be distributed. They needed Ritedose to produce and manufacture those vials with their blow-fill-seal technology.
Ritedose CEO Jody Chastain says more COVID-19 vaccines will be packaged and filled in Columbia than any other place in the country.
“It’s tremendously rewarding,” Chastain explained.
He and his employees did the near impossible, getting two 150,000 square-foot warehouses ready to package and fill the vaccines in only a few months.
“Typically, that would take anywhere from 18-24 months, but within five months, we were able to outfit the facility to be able to handle the vaccine,” said Chastain.
Ritedose has upped its staff by more than 10% to help handle the demand.
“The potential for the workforce here in Columbia is huge, as well as putting Columbia on the map in the response to COVID,” Chastain noted.
The company’s nearly 400 employees also learned Thursday the role they will play in distributing the vaccine.
“It’s been hush-hush around the facility,” said Chastain. “People know that we’ve been doing work around the facility to be able to handle a new product, but they were unaware of what the new product is. Making this announcement to the employees today was very exciting because they’ve been able to see a tremendous amount of pride that’s been able to go into the workforce to be able to handle the vaccine.”
As soon as a vaccine candidate receives FDA approval, Ritedose will work with the company to make sure the vaccine is compatible with their plastic packaging.
“We’re much more efficient,” said Chastain. “We can produce a higher volume in a shorter time period.”
Once the vaccine is rolled out, front line workers, like Prisma Health Baptist Parkridge doctor Jennifer Risinger, will be the first in line.
“I’m very encouraged that we’re looking at months instead of years,” said Risinger.
She says she and her colleagues are eager to get the vaccine.
“It does give us a sense of relief and confidence that we’ll be able to deliver the care that people here in the Midlands deserve,” she noted. “I think we should all be very proud that we have a local company who is this involved in bringing this to the national spotlight as soon as possible.”
Ritedose says it’s likely the first vaccines distributed in South Carolina will have been packaged and filled in Columbia.
Operation Warp Speed has a goal to produce and deliver 300 million safe and effective doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with the first doses expected to be ready by January 2021.
Nephron prepping to fill COVID vaccines in state see more
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — With a potential COVID-19 vaccine looming, one South Carolina company said they’ll be able to fill vaccines next year.
According to Nephron Pharmaceuticals CEO and Founder Lou Kennedy, the company is in the midst of a $215 million expansion. They are adding new office and new warehouse space. The investment will also create more than 380 jobs the company said.
The expansion also includes vaccine production space. Kennedy said once completed, they’ll be able to fill COVID-19 vaccines at their facility.
“We’re actively looking for the right partner that will produce and we’ll fill the vaccine. We’re speaking with people throughout the federal government and Department of Defense to find the right partner,” Kennedy said.
Tuesday, the company held a beam raising ceremony to celebrate their expansion. Kennedy said she expects to have the vaccine production space completed by March 2021.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the FDA has not approved a COVID-19 vaccine for distribution. However, preliminary reports on vaccines from Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. show their vaccines have at least a 90% effectiveness rate.
Kennedy said they are anticipating a medical grade glass shortage because of the high demand for the vaccine. She said they have the ability to work around that. “Our option will be to put the vaccine in plastic. We have the technology and the capability.”
Under the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (SCDHEC) statewide vaccine plan, front line medical personnel and nursing home residents will be some of the first South Carolinians to get doses of an approved vaccine. They anticipate vaccine supply will be limited to start off, but Kennedy hopes they can help alleviate that.
She said, “We’re right in tandem with the research work and the clinical trials that are going on. We’re trying to time that perfectly for the vaccine filling side of it.”
Companies find ways to thrive despite pandemic see more
Seven months ago, John Carrington took a deep breath and pushed all his chips to the center of the table.
His Columbia company, ZVerse, was at a crossroads. Founded in 2013 as a 3D design and software solutions provider, the Shop Road outfit faced overwhelming demand for the protective face shield that had grown from an idea hatched to help local hospitals into orders multiplying into the millions.
“The first request we had was for 3,000 units, which we could solve, no problem,” Carrington said. “The next day it was 10,000, and the next day it was 50,000, and at that point we knew that 3D printing would not be able to keep up with that demand. … We had to place a bet.”
The wager involved shutting down for a few weeks to completely retool ZVerse’s production process to injection molding while scaling up from an 8,000-square-foot facility to a 30,000-square-foot one that could fill three tractor-trailers a day. Continue reading by clicking here...
Cold storage for vaccines could be an issue see more
News last week that a COVID-19 vaccine has shown a 90 percent success rate in testing has buoyed hopes that the coronavirus pandemic might soon be under control, but getting that vaccine to patients promises to be a logistics challenge.
The vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc., has to be stored at temperatures of at least minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s approaching the lowest temperatures at the South Pole.
It’s also much lower than the temperatures experienced in typical cold-storage logistics. The refrigerated cargo containers that move through the Port of Charleston can achieve temperatures of below-30 Fahrenheit, but that fluctuates during summer months when outside temperatures are climbing. The coldest refrigerated container built by industry leader Thermo King can reach minus-76 Fahrenheit, but that’s still not cold enough for vaccine storage.
Zverse a hit on Amazon see more
The country's largest producer of branded face shields has made its top-selling products available for purchase on Amazon.
Earlier this spring, digital manufacturing company ZVerse created a first-ever PPE product to be marketed and sold directly to consumers: The ZShield, an ultra-lightweight, neck-mounted face shield designed to provide a comfortable, wearable barrier that helps users shield their face, mouth and eyes from spray, splatter, and the direct transfer of respiratory droplets. ZVerse has since produced over four million face shields, and now, several of its products are available for purchase on Amazon, marking another milestone for the company. All products are made in the USA.
"At the height of the COVID-19 impact on the U.S., we recognized our unique ability to quickly produce and provide valuable PPE to our front-line healthcare heroes, while also creating jobs and stimulating the local economy," said John Carrington, founder and CEO of ZVerse. "We have since grown our PPE product pipeline to serve a number of industries. We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to our partners and customers for helping us reach this milestone with Amazon."
Shoppers on Amazon now have access to four ZShield models, including the ZShield Health, the ZShield Flex, the ZShield Wrap and the ZShield Youth. ZShields can be purchased individually and in packs of two or five. Replacement shields for both the Flexand Wrap are also on sale in quantities of five or 10.
Based on industry and customer demand, ZVerse creates face shields that provide a threshold of hygiene for those seeking options for face coverings. ZShields allow for clear verbal and nonverbal communication and all-day comfort when masks or stationary sneeze guards are not practical, or when environments call for the use of both a shield and a face mask. The ZShield has completely disrupted the industry, bringing much-needed design innovation to the world of PPE and earning ZVerse a 2020 Innovation by Design Award from Fast Company. ZVerse is now producing hundreds of thousands of ZShields a day, which are all designed, sourced and made in the USA through an established domestic supply chain.
News you can use about SC life sciences see more
Catch up on all the important reading around South Carolina life sciences -- and the national and global issues impacting it. It's all here, easy to read in just a few minutes, with dozens of helpful links. Enjoy!
Vigilent Labs to call Charleston, South Carolina home see more
Compliments of Charleston Post and Courier
Congratulations to our colleagues in Charleston County for this excellent announcement, advancing the growth of life sciences in South Carolina. Read the full story here.
A technology firm with ties to the U.S. defense industry said Thursday it will invest nearly $105 million in a facility on the former Navy base in North Charleston that the company says will manufacture COVID-19 test kits.
Vigilent Labs said it will hire 400 workers to produce FDA-approved test kits that can detect COVID-19 antibodies and antigens in 10 minutes or less.
Manufacturing will begin in December and the company said it also will move its headquarters to the site at 1105 Truxton Ave. Vigilent is currently based in Alexandria, Va., near the nation’s capital, and it was incorporated in Wyoming. Read on for full details.
Clemson start-up getting noticed see more
When innovation and expertise meet practicality, the result is not quite magic, but it sure is close.
This is the strength behind Aravis BioTech, a startup headed in part by Jeffrey Anker of the College of Science and John DesJardins of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, as well as Dr. Caleb Behrend, an orthopedic surgeon in Arizona specializing in the spine. The team is developing screws used in orthopedic surgery that employ easy-to-use sensors to determine the status of fracture healing. This, in turn, helps physicians know when patients can safely apply weight to their healing fracture.
Aravis BioTech is one of three finalists for the InnoVision Technology Development Award. InnoVision is a non-profit organization that fosters the growth of South Carolina’s innovation economy and recognizes leadership, innovation and technological excellence.
“My background is in analytical chemistry – which means I make sensors,” said Anker, a professor in the Department of Chemistry.
Anker and DesJardins, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering, met on a bus at a student NASA project at the Marshall Space Flight Center in 2010. The pair decided to bring their work together to develop a medical implant that would change color as a fracture healed. Through a grant from SC BioCRAFT (Bioengineering Center for Regeneration and Formation of Tissues) and an NIH grant, they developed screws that changed color based on how tight they were.
But Dr. Behrend, a spine surgeon and longtime friend and collaborator of Anker’s, said that such a sensor would be more practical if surgeons could see it on an X-ray.
“Most Americans will break a couple of bones, on average, in their lifetime,” Anker said. “If it’s a bad break and you can’t just put a cast on it, they need to put in hardware. That’s where those screws come in.”
An X-ray doesn’t show how well a bone is healing. Between the break and full healing, there is an intermediate phase where the repaired fracture can and should bear weight – the question is how much.
“Maybe it can take your weight for a bit, but it will eventually fatigue and fail,” Anker said. “Similar to a paper clip, I can bend it a lot, but if I go back and forth, back and forth, eventually it will fail. The same thing happens with these implants. That’s a huge problem.”
Consider a hip fracture. Anker said one in 10 Americans will break hips. Rather than replacing the hip, the most common repair is to secure the ball back to the femur with a simple screw.
“People are encouraged to bear weight immediately, but if it’s not healing, the screw will probably eventually cut out of the bone or there will be other mechanical failures,” Anker said. “That happens rarely, but when it happens, it’s devastating.”
The screw is positioned into the bone repair with a wire guided through its hollow core. Aravis BioTech’s implanted device enhances the screw.
“We add a straight piece to the bottom of the hollow screw so that when it bends, this straight piece moves relative to the screw casing,” Anker said. “We make that straight piece out of a material that is dark on X-rays. You can see how much the screw is bending, quantify how much load is on it and be able to track the patient’s progress.”
The implant can help surgeons determine whether the device has been tightened sufficiently during surgery. And because load can lead to postoperative failure, it can help determine whether the patient is at an optimum activity level or if activity needs to be reduced until further healing takes place. Once the bone has healed, the hardware typically stays in and becomes superfluous.
A technology translation grant from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (ICORPS) program to Clemson University allowed the Aravis team to interview a variety of stakeholders, including physicians, patients, physical therapists, insurance executives and hospital administrators to determine if the team is making a device that best meets the needs of patients. A South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) Acceleration Grant helped fund prototypes.
The team is expanding the idea to plates and other devices, as well as to sensors that can track infection based on chemical changes.
In addition to Aravis BioTech’s honor as an InnoVision Technology Development Award finalist, all four finalists for InnoVision’s COVID-19 Response – Technology Research Award are from Clemson University, including the COVID Microbead Screening Project, a team mentored by Anker, which also won the Clemson COVID Challenge, a summer virtual research and design opportunity. The team investigated a quick COVID-19 test that uses minimal, easily accessed equipment.
VentureSouth Named Top Ten see more
Compliments of MidlandsBiz
VentureSouth announced that it has been recognized as one of the top 10 angel investment groups in North America for the 3rd time.
The ranking comes from the Angel Capital Association, which released its 2020 Angel Funders Report this week. VentureSouth was recognized in the study as a top 10 angel group based on both total investments (30) and capital deployed ($12.7M) in 2019. VentureSouth was also recognized as a top 10 group by the ACA in 2018 and by CB Insights in 2014.
The Angel Capital Association is the largest association of angel groups in the world, with more than 250 angel groups and other early stage investors with over 14,000 members. Its members include many of the leading angel groups in the world.
VentureSouth was listed in this year’s top 10 alongside some of the largest and most well-respected angel groups in the US and Canada, including Tech Coast Angels in California and New York Angels and Golden Seeds in New York.
VentureSouth Managing Director Paul Clark commented: “We are honored to be recognized again as a top 10 angel group by the ACA and are proud that the repeat award recognizes our continued growth and the consistency of our approach to early-stage investing. We appreciate our highly engaged investors who are helping us accelerate investments in promising ventures across the Southeast.”
To learn more about VentureSouth, visit https://venturesouth.vc.
SCBIO's regularMonday Moment is ready for you! see more
SCBIO's latest Monday Moment arrives as we approach election day to provide meaningful and inspiring information in 4 minutes or less. This week, enjoy an uplifting reminder from ERG Payroll & HR's Matt Vaadi... new SC CARES grant information... an important diversity and inclusion survey... plus lots more uplifting news... enjoy today's edition right here...
Greenville's Humimic Medical pivots to meet pandemic needs see more
When the coronavirus pandemic left businesses around the nation struggling with dwindling orders and growing bills, some took a chance on something new.
Among them was Greenville-based Humimic Medical.
The 10-year-old company produces synthetic gels that mimic human tissue used in medical applications. Almost overnight, it switched to producing personal protective equipment (PPE), illustrating that there are opportunities everywhere for people with innovative ideas.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing and the path was punctuated by a couple of Hail Mary passes, said Humimic founder and CEO Joel Edwards.
“None of our (products) had any ties with PPE or any Covid-related things … and everything was going pretty well,” he said. “We thought we were bulletproof.”
Then the phones stopped ringing, he said. There were no orders for three months.
Edwards spoke at the first of a series of webinars called “Leading Beyond the Crisis” that examines companies that responded to the pandemic. The webinars are hosted by InnoVision Awards, a grass roots non-profit dedicated to innovation and technology across the state.
Originally a defense industry company, Humimic began to focus on the medical side about four years ago, he said.
And in the face of the virus, it started looking at what else it could do, he said.
Since the company had a plastics supplier in Mount Pleasant and had just bought some new equipment, it turned to face shields when the virus exposed the desperate need for PPE, he said.
“We thought raw product (plastic, foam) was easy to come by, but when we started looking around, none were easy to secure,” he said. “And I’m running numbers in my head and thinking what did I get myself into.”
His contact in Mount Pleasant was his “only saving grace.” Then the elastic supply dried up.
“So we said, heck, Velcro is readily available,” he said. “And we started to get as much as we could get our hands on.”
The first shield the company made had straps that weren’t long enough to fit most men’s heads, he said. But once that problem was solved, it did an initial run of 500, he said.
Company officials thought they’d sell their shields for $4 to $4.50, he said. But with the Chinese selling theirs for $2 to $3, he wondered how the company could potentially make a profit and keep everyone employed.
“It was a hard thing for us to get people to understand. We were not looking to gouge the market and get rich,” Edwards said. “But our cost for the plastic was two to three times what Chinese were charging.”
In the end, he said, with no assembly line experience, the company had to produce 1,500 a day to make about $1 profit per shield.
“We knew price was going to be a hard thing,” he said. “The only way we were able to do it was to scoop up the plastic.”
As other suppliers ran out of stock, Humimic found markets at veterans’ centers, VA hospitals, dentist offices, nursing homes and mortuaries.
In the end, the company was able to produce some 80,000 shields sold around the country on Amazon and Walmart websites, Edwards said.
He said Humimic still has several thousand shields in stock, but it came out OK even though orders for PPE are slowing down.
If Covid flares up this winter, he said, the need might grow again.
Charleston, Vikor Scientific featured in national media see more
Empty hotel rooms, half-full offices, and shuttered retail. The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the most established commercial real estate asset classes, creating short-term financial crunches and raising long-term secular concerns as remote work is tested and e-commerce rates rise.
Other asset classes, once alternatives, have become institutional investing gold standard. Logistics assets such as warehouses are providing a punch to the portfolio of the world’s largest landlord, Blackstone.
As industrial real estate investing becomes more crowded, and many of the other large asset classes slump, attention is turning to life sciences real estate — or space that’s used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies for research, development, and even manufacturing of new diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines.
The life science industry had been growing rapidly before the pandemic, attracting $17.4 billion in venture capital funding in 2019, up 370% from $3.7 billion in 2008, according to a Cushman & Wakefield report. Funding has continued to pour into the sector, even as coronavirus has slowed down venture funding overall, creating demand for more lab space.