Bobby Hitt, Humimic Medical, Nephron, Spangler Honored at 2021 South Carolina Manufacturing ConferenceSC Life Science honorees prominent at state's major manufacturing conference see more
Former South Carolina Secretary of Commerec Bobby Hitt was presented Human Technologies Inc. Lifetime Achievement Award today at the annual SCMEP Salute to Manufacturing Awards luncheon that caps off the S.C. Manufacturing Conference and Expo.
The award winners were announced during a special luncheon following the two-day conference and a keynote address by Gov. Henry McMaster. The governor helped present the awards along with Rick Jenkins, group publisher of SC Biz News.
Hitt served as secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce from the time he was appointed by former governor Nikki Haley until his retirement earlier this year. A former journalist, his work in economic development began when he went to work for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, where he played a role in recruiting BMW Manufacturing to Spartanburg County and subsequently became one of the first BMW employees. He served as manager of public affairs for the plant until his appointment to the Commerce Department. Much of the department’s focus during his tenure was on recruiting manufacturers to the Palmetto State and growing those companies already here. Secretary Hitt was also inducted into the SC Life Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.
Jenkins announced that, starting with next year’s Salute to Manufacturing luncheon, the award for lifetime achievement will be named for Chuck Spangler, the late executive director of the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Spangler and SCMEP annually played a significant role in the overall conference and the awards ceremony.
“It’s appropriate to name the lifetime achievement award in Chuck’s memory because he dedicated so much of his life to the service of manufacturing — to raising the industry to higher standards and bringing the rest of the state up with it,” Jenkins said. “It didn’t feel the same hosting this year’s conference without him, but the impression he and his colleagues at SCMEP made for this industry will not soon be forgotten.”
SCMEP plays a key role in the conference, offering training courses to help make manufacturers better.
“Every year from the stage I said manufacturers in this state have no better friend than Chuck and SCMEP, and I meant it,” Jenkins said.
Other awards presented during the conference’s capstone luncheon included:
- Emerging Manufacturer of the Year Awards went to Samsung Electronics Home Appliances America LLC and Advanced Metalworks LLC. Alimex Precision in Aluminum was a finalist in the category.
- Humimic Medical was named Innovator of the Year. Finalists for the honor were Stanley Black & Decker and Nucor Steel.
- The Outreach Award was taken home by South Atlantic Canners while Komatsu America Corp. and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC were recognized as finalists.
- Smart Move New Plant Awards were given to Leisure Pools and Spas, Mark Anthony Brewing and Niagara Bottling. The honor recognizes those companies that chose South Carolina over other locations to invest in new facilities.
- Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., Santa Cruz Nutritionals and Techtronic Industries received the Smart Move SC Expansion Award. The award recognizes companies already in South Carolina that chose to spend their growth resources in the state by expanding locally.
Pleasurecraft Engine Group won the Transformation and Operational Excellence Award. Intertape Polymer Group and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC were finalists in the category.
Upstate company makes its mark see more
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.
Trio collaborate to turn back COVID tides see more
It was not long ago when we all witnessed demand for critical Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) far outstripping supply on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.
While this story line is now receding in our memory, it became a rare instance in South Carolina based on extraordinary efforts from entities like Humimic Medical, South Carolina Biotechnology Organization (SCBIO), and South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP). Not only did these groups address frontline workers, but they also addressed the critical PPE needs of organizations a few layers back from the front lines – such as non-profit community outreach groups, church programs, and workforce development groups.
Humimic Medical teamed up with SCBIO and SCMEP to help these organizations and others out. Leveraging the broad network of SCBIO and connected distribution channels of SCMEP, Humimic Medical donated thousands of face shields to organizations across South Carolina which desperately needed quality, made-in-the-USA protective equipment.
“Helping the ‘little guys’ has always been part of my DNA, I guess,” commented Joel Edwards, CEO of Greenville’s Humimic Medical. “We started in a garage 10 years ago and grew from there. Organizations willing to support the little guy like us along the way helped us tremendously in getting to where we are today. So having the opportunity to give back and help others who may not be first in line to receive PPE supplies just felt right.”
Humimic Medical does not typically produce PPE. However, as they continued to become more deeply entrenched in the collaborative life science ecosystem network that SCBIO has forged in the Palmetto State (which includes groups like SCMEP), they realized they could join the fight against COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, Humimic Medical shifted some of its engineering and manufacturing resources from their medical trainer product lines to help supply PPE where it was needed most.
There was one problem though. Humimic Medical didn’t have the established distribution channels for PPE in South Carolina. That’s where SCBIO’s connection to SCMEP came into play. Organizations like SCMEP also serve as key players in South Carolina’s connected, collaborative, and growth-oriented network. SCMEP’s mission of helping state organizations improve their competitiveness, performance, and profitability provided a perfect backdrop for Humimic Medical to connect to organizations around our state who still desperately needed PPE supplies like face shields.
“SCMEP always prides itself in being a strategic resource for companies in our State”, shared Chuck Spangler, President of SCMEP. “We’re grateful we could leverage our network in collaboration with SCBIO and Humimic Medical to serve organizations in need.”
Added SCBIO Interim CEO Erin Ford, whose team was able to rapidly connect Humimic with key contacts to deliver the new face shields where they are needed most, “We continue to live our mission of being the life sciences industry convener, and that’s more important than ever right now.”
“Organizations SCBIO and SCMEP continue to be invaluable assets in our State,” said Edwards. “The rich, collaborative networks these kind of groups create are what will continue to make South Carolina a leader in new business development.”
About Humimic Medical:
Humimic Medical is a rapidly growing medical trainer and synthetic gel manufacturing company based in Greenville, SC. The company is driven by innovative product design, world-class customer service, and fueled by robust collaborative partnerships with universities and healthcare providers. Humimic Medical utilizes its proprietary synthetic gel blend to more closely represent human tissue elasticity and maintain recyclable/reusable qualities that no other product line currently offers delivered at a significantly lower price point than any existing products.
SCMEP is a private, non-profit group that serves as a proven resource to South Carolina businesses, providing them with a range of innovative strategies and solutions. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), SCMEP operates under the US Department of Commerce to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. SCMEP uses a strategic, hands-on, partnering approach to help South Carolina companies improve their competitiveness, performance, and profitability in today’s increasingly demanding global economy.
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...
PPE available through national exchange see more
The spring 2020 collaboration between SCMEP, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO which launched the online South Carolina Emergency Supply Collaborative portal to provide critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare providers, hospitals and businesses across the Palmetto State has taken a giant leap forward.
The SC Emergency Supply Collaborative has joined forces with the national team at PPE Exchange to provide a dramatically expanded and fully automated resource for accessing PPE and supplies for all South Carolina businesses.
PPE Exchange is an online marketplace of regional and national suppliers of PPE, similar in concept to an Amazon but dedicated to the provision of PPE and essential supplies. Via PPE Exchange, hospitals, health care providers and businesses seeking supplies are virtually connected to a marketplace of already-verified suppliers to securely search for items, schedule orders, compare prices and complete transactions.
Among the enhanced benefits of sourcing supplies via PPE Exchange is its support technology built on blockchain, allowing buyers: to track transactions from order placement to delivery; access to over 200 regional and national suppliers; easy ability to source from SC-based suppliers; price comparison capabilities; ability to order in small volumes; and a “request a quote” feature.
“The demand for PPE continues to be critical to our state and its diverse businesses and healthcare providers,” said Chuck Spangler, President of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership and a spokesperson for the Emergency Supply Collaborative. “After creating and operating the South Carolina COVID-19 Emergency Supply portal with our partners these past several months, we identified PPE Exchange as an organization with the secure technology platform, expanded mix of vendors and products, and service-driven operations approach to provide the secure digital marketplace that Palmetto State organizations seeking PPE deserve.”
Much as with the prior Collaborative portal, PPE Exchange connects parties in need of essential supplies and equipment with those that can provide it quickly and efficiently. It allows industry providers of critical medical supplies (such as face shields, gowns, ventilators and masks) from South Carolina and across the U.S. to directly connect with the healthcare providers and members of industry in search of essential supplies in one easy step. South Carolina suppliers of goods are clearly marked to ensure that Palmetto State organizations can “Shop SC” as desired.
To begin accessing the marketplace on PPE Exchange, visit https://www.ppe.exchange/ and request access. Upon entering a contact email and basic information, an email will be automatically sent prompting a password reset and allowing login to the PPE Exchange website.
“Whether from a South Carolina or a South Dakota supplier, organizations and individuals can go online 24/7 via PPE Exchange to identify and select the critical need items they need from the expanded menu of providers and offerings,” said Sam Konduros, CEO of SCBIO. “We encourage every member of our state’s industry, if you have a need for PPE products, or want to add your products to the growing registry of vendors, to visit PPE Exchange now.”
Visit PPE Exchange at https://ppe.exchange/.
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.
Online portals like South Carolina's are connecting the needy with vital PPE see more
Online portals are connecting hospitals short on personal protective equipment with local businesses making the items.
Businesses across the country have switched gears away from the production of their usual wares to manufacturing personal protective equipment in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
But with equipment shortages and so many new vendors entering the marketplace, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other businesses looking for the supplies may not know where to turn. So, states have launched online portals to help match would-be customers with manufacturers that can meet their needs.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Community and Economic Development launched a business-to-business directory last week that provides contact information for local manufacturers of a variety of N95 respirator masks and cloth masks, as well as thermometers. To compile the directory, the state put out a call for manufacturers or suppliers of in-demand PPE through two web portals.
“Through this process, we recognized that we can help foster direct business connections to provide Pennsylvanians access to critical supplies expeditiously without a middleman,” said Dennis Davin, secretary of the economic development agency.
The first portal launched in March and sought information from manufacturers and suppliers about equipment that the state could purchase for medical providers, emergency responders, and health care professionals. Through the second portal, the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal, companies could report their own supply chain capabilities, needs, or workforce gaps.
The nation’s economy has slowed down dramatically as states ordered residents to stay at home and non-essential businesses to close to help stop the spread of the virus. To both keep workers employed and to meet the staggering demands for masks and other equipment needed by health care providers, businesses across the country have begun repurposing their equipment and supplies to manufacture personal protective equipment.
Distilleries have swapped whiskey for hand sanitizer. A company that makes wallets and outdoor gear from recycled sailcloth is now manufacturing face shields. And a 3-D printing business is now churning out thousands of nasal test swabs.
But it’s made for a confusing marketplace, said Chuck Spangler, director of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, one of several partners helping to run an online PPE supply portal in the state.
The launch of the South Carolina Covid-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative has made it much easier to track the current needs of hospitals and other medical providers and to funnel business back into local economies, Spangler said.
“We needed to know the demand from the health care providers so we could be more effective,” he said.
The collaborative, which has partnered with the state’s Department of Commerce, the South Carolina Hospital Association, and SCBIO, the voice of the South Carolina Life Sciences Industry, regularly updates the list of critical needs items on its website. When medical providers reach out to the collaborative to discuss their supply needs, the collaborative responds with a list of manufacturers or suppliers they have vetted to ensure they are properly licensed.
About 70% of the 172 of the manufacturers or suppliers currently working with the collaborative are located in South Carolina, which means the effort has been able to channel business back into the state’s economy while also meeting its healthcare needs, Spangler said.
As a result, some businesses have been able to limit the number of employees laid off during the economic crisis while others are even growing. Spangler said. One 3-D printing company that went from producing 30,000 face shields a day to 200,000 and had to staff up to accommodate the demand, he said.
He hopes the investment in local sourcing will help the state’s economy bounce back once the pandemic is over.
Challenges the collaborative expects to encounter in the near future include sourcing supplies for a broader array of businesses that will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks as the state’s stay-at-home order is relaxed. Another hurdle will be securing equipment for small businesses that may have orders sidelined by their regular suppliers struggling to fill bulk orders.
“Their suppliers are pushing them out and saying, ‘Sorry you can’t get product until the end of May,’” Spangler said.
Acquiring an adequate amount of personal protective equipment will be vital to restarting local economies across the country.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson announced an online PPE portal this week, noting that a key pillar of his plan to reopen the state is expanding the state’s reserves of PPE by opening public and private supply chains. The state reports getting interest in the portal from more than 200 companies.
“Manufacturers across the state have answered the call to help protect our health care workers, and we are committed to doing all we can to get this equipment into the hands of those that need it,” Parson said.
Nephron gets nod from FDA see more
West-Columbia headquartered-Nephron Pharmaceutical Corp.’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has received an additional weapon.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the company’s request to add a production line used in the manufacturing of bronchodilator albuterol today, Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy told the Columbia Regional Business Report.
“This news came in 20 minutes ago,” Kennedy said Monday morning. “People are cheering. It’s like The Price is Right or something.”
Kennedy said she expects to hear whether a second production line has been approved later this week.
Last month, Kennedy petitioned the FDA to add up to six production lines moved to Columbia from the company’s previous Florida headquarters in 2019. Kennedy said the additional lines could help the sterile respiratory medication manufacturer keep up with unprecedented demand.
Kennedy said March saw a 141% increase in the doses of inhalation solutions Nephron typically produces a month.
“We went from a regular month of about 80 million shipped to 193 million shipped in March. That’s just for the respiratory side,” she said. “For our sterile injectable medications that we make for all the hospitals in America that have drug shortage needs, that was up by like 22%. We’re seeing the same exact trend in April.”
Kennedy praised the FDA for its quick response, saying the federal agency granted Nephron a CBE-30, “which means Change Being Effected. That’s giving you a goal date of 30 days or less to review your material and be able to say yes or no,” she said.
“That’s really something. You’ve just got to know and feel good as a patient or a potential patient in America that the FDA has been working with me on the phone almost every day, or by email, trying to get this through expeditiously so that we can crank up a few more lines.
“As much as we can make, we’re selling. I don’t want to get behind. So if we can get these other lines approved pretty quickly, then we’ll be able to pump out — if I get four lines, at least another 50 million a month.”
Also helping meet demand, Kennedy said, are the efforts of the S.C. Ports Authority.
Last Thursday, four gigantic containers of automated packaging equipment arrived at Nephron headquarters from Switzerland. Today, the company is expecting air delivery of critical supplies from Italy, one of the countries hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You know how difficult that was to pull off?” Kennedy said.
Kennedy developed a working relationship with the port as she moved hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment from Florida to West Columbia when Nephron relocated to South Carolina in 2014. During her time as chair of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce from 2018-19, Kennedy came to know S.C. Ports CEO Jim Newsome and COO Barbara Melvin well.
Expecting last week’s shipment of automated equipment to help Nephron workers quickly label, package and ship products, Kennedy called Melvin.
“I reached out to see what the situation was going to be like in getting these pieces of equipment,” she said. “That equipment, which was four giant containers, arrived to the dot at 9 a.m. (Thursday) morning all because of two great South Carolina partners — UPS and its hub that’s located one exit from me, and the Ports Authority.
“All of these drugs that are packaged will go to benefit speedier to-market products for patients with COVID-19. … This is front-line equipment that we need to get our products to market quicker.”
Nephron is also gearing up to begin releasing 100-mL saline bags for administration of sodium chlorine. The minibags, made scarce after the 2017 hurricane season hit manufacturer Baxter Healthcare hard, are once again in short supply, Kennedy said.
“We are very happy to say that we’ve been producing 100-mL saline for the last two weeks in anticipation for this going on shortage,” said Kennedy, who said the bags would be released this past Friday.
While Nephron has ramped up production in response to previous respiratory illnesses such as SARS and H1N1, Kennedy said the COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything she’s ever seen. Nephron began making its own hand sanitizer last month, distributing 50 liters to the William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veteran Affairs Center.
“I had absolutely no idea we’d reach these levels. I couldn’t even imagine, can’t even imagine, still am trying to process,” Kennedy said. “One particular day, two or three weeks ago, one hospital system in New York ordered 3,000 nebulizers from us. A typical thing might be 50, no more than 100. They ordered 3,000.”
S.C. Ports and other transportation partners have helped Nephron fill the exploding demand, Kennedy said, while Nephron workers are proud to be playing a role in combating the virus.
“I couldn’t even begin to compare ourselves with what they’re doing at hospitals, but there is a true sense of patriotism,” she said. “People are coming to work optimistic in the fact that they’re helping, in their own small way, American patients.”
South Carolina Launches COVID-19 Emergency Supply Portal to Connect Providers with Organizations in NeedSouth Carolina launches portal to connect critical supplies with those who need them see more
SCMEP, South Carolina Hospital Association, SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO combine
to source critical medical supplies and get them to parties in need quickly
South Carolina – April 13, 2020 – A collaboration between SCMEP, the SC Hospital Association, the SC Department of Commerce and SCBIO has resulted in the expedited launch of a new online South Carolina Emergency Supply Collaborative web portal.
Located at www.SCCOVID19.org, the portal connects parties in need of essential supplies and equipment with those that can provide it in quickly and efficiently. It allows industry and community partners with the ability to quickly produce, source, test, certify or contribute critical medical supplies (such as face shields, gowns, ventilators and masks) to directly connect with the healthcare providers, first responders and members of industry in search of those essential supply needs in one easy step.
Manufacturers able to expand or pivot their production lines, suppliers and distributors with access to ready-made supplies, organizations able to donate supplies or personal protective equipment (PPE) can identify the supplies and equipment they can offer in the site’s central repository. Once quickly reviewed and vetted by a team from the collaborative, organizations in need of the materials will be digitally connected through the portal to secure their desired goods from providers directly.
The need for the portal was identified after members of the collaborative began individually fielding hundreds of calls from organizations in need of such supplies, said Chuck Spangler, President of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP).
“Each of our respective organizations has strong and indelible positions as sources of information, connection and aid to our respective constituencies, so it was logical for those parties – whether hospitals or manufacturers, existing industry or life sciences organizations – to turn to us in time of need,” said Mr. Spangler. “After sharing among ourselves the flood of requests we were individually receiving and trying to manage, we determined that a combined approach would offer greatest value and efficiency for our state and its citizens, and the creation of the South Carolina COVID-19 Emergency Supply portal was quickly underway.”
The site identifies critical need items as evidenced by industry, healthcare, first responder and governmental audiences across the state, and allows organizations to quickly enter the type of goods they can provide or manufacture, quantities and production capacity, and supply chain needs or requirements. Once entered and vetted by the SCMEP team, inquiring parties seeking the goods will be connected to the providers through the portal. Organizations then conduct transactions and arrange and plan logistics directly.
“This is a joint effort to recruit community partners with ability to quickly source or provide needed medical supplies to support South Carolina’s COVID-19 response,” said Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of the SC Hospital Association. “South Carolina’s COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will save valuable time and effort in connecting those in need of goods with those who have them… at a time where every minute counts in saving lives and defeating this formidable virus.”
The COVID-19 Emergency Supply website will be updated constantly with new information and opportunities to support South Carolina emergency response efforts. It also links directly to individual websites of the four Collaborative partners, which each provide a host of resources, news, connections and relevant information for businesses and individuals.
“We are all in this together, and I am proud of the South Carolina business community’s continued response to serve our state during this unprecedented time,” said S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “The COVID-19 Emergency Supply Collaborative’s ability to connect manufacturers, suppliers and other organizations with the front-line medical personnel who need these critical items will serve as a valuable resource.”
Organizations and individuals can go online 24/7 to identify critical need items or to note what products they can provide or may need, said Sam Konduros, CEO of SCBIO. “We encourage every member of industry, if you have a product that is needed and which you can provide, produce, test, certify or donate, let us know that right now by completing the simple form on the site. And for organizations in need of such items, let us know that right away so that we can get connect you with parties who can help right now.”
Visit the new site at https://sccovid19.org/