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South Carolina economic development

  • sam patrick posted an article
    South Carolina company a leader in organ transportation see more

    Compliments of Upstate Business Journal

    You might not realize it, but there’s a company right here in the Upstate that’s on the cutting edge of organ transplant technology.

    Duncan-based Global Transplant Solutions is quite literally named for what they do. They provide the solutions in which organs are transported to medical facilities all over the world for transplant procedures.

    In the past four years, Global Transplant Solutions has blazed an innovative trail. They’re supplying a complete portfolio of organ preservation solutions to the Canadian transplant market, they’ve received FDA clearance for two products in the United States market, and there are four more GTS solutions awaiting FDA approval.

    The company has been able to do this in a relatively short amount of time thanks in part to the South Carolina Research Authority. The SCRA is a public, nonprofit corporation that supports South Carolina’s innovation economy.

    Since 2017, Global Transplant Solutions has received $350,000 in investments from the SCRA-affiliated corporation, SC Launch, Inc., which provides loans and investments to select, South Carolina-based companies across three areas: Life Science, Information Technology, and Advanced Materials & Manufacturing.

    “With the assistance of SCRA and many other places, we went forward, raised private money, started the company and pursued FDA approval of our first product, which we got in 2016,” says John Bruens, the CEO of Global Transplant Solutions. “We’ll eventually have seven FDA-cleared products, exclusively geared towards the organ transplant market, and we are the only company on the planet to have anything like that.”

    Steve Johnson, investment manager at SC Launch, says their investment in GTS started small but they saw great potential in the company.

    “We gave them a very small grant of $15,000 in April of 2017 when we discovered them,” Johnson says. “They were in the world where there is always much, much higher demand than there is supply. So once you have a patient that is in dire need of an organ, it is everything everybody can do to get an organ donor found and then get that organs safely transported to where it’s going to be done. And Global Transplant has the solutions, literally. They make the solutions that the organs are put in during the shipment process so that they will be fully functional when they’re implanted into the patient.”

    Johnson says the SCRA and SC Launch are thrilled with the results they’ve seen so far.

    “Our relationship is one of communication,” he says. “It’s one of trust and it’s one where we are very closely following their financial situation.  It’s been a very fulfilling relationship; that $15,000 grant to help them get started led to a pretty major investment in them and then, a second investment.”

    In fact, SC Launch, Inc. recently stepped in again and helped GTS when COVID threw them a curveball.

    “In April 2020, the biggest transplant centers like the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic basically said, ‘We’re not accepting any more of your solutions from FedEx or UPS,’” Johnson says. “’We want them to be shipped directly in a truck from your facility in the Upstate of South Carolina and delivered directly to our door.’ Well, that was a whole other twist of logistics for them because they’d never done that. They came to us and said, ‘We’ve got to get trucks. We’ve got to hire people. We’ve got to hand-deliver these solutions.”

    “There was a concern amongst our customers that standard shipping groups were exposing, through no fault of their own, groups to potential infection,” John Bruens adds. “And the one thing you cannot do when you’re in the organ transplant is accidentally infect somebody. Our solutions are very sensitive; they’re temperature sensitive, they’re not made to be out on tarmacs getting hot. So we needed to figure out how to continue to deliver to these places that absolutely needed our product.”

    “Our relationship is one of communication,” he says. “It’s one of trust and it’s one where we are very closely following their financial situation.” – Steve Johnson
    Thanks to a loan from the SCRA and SC Launch, the company was able to do just that.

    “This company wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for SCRA and their support,” Bruens says. “We’re always looking for ways to be better, and SC Launch and SCRA helps with that.

    “Global Transplant Solutions is a gem of a company,” Johnson adds. “We’re very proud to be associated with them, we’re very proud to have invested in them, and we’re very proud of the work they’re doing.”

    According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 35,000 organ transplants a year are performed in the U.S.  As this article was being completed, GTS announced that the FDA had given clearance to another of their solutions, Servator® P, which is used for safe human lung transportation.

     September 12, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Artificial intelligence a critical factor in improving healthcare, booming life sciences industry see more

    Compliments of Columbia Business - Charleston Business - Greenville Business Magazines

    HCA Healthcare and Google Cloud are partnering to use data analytics and artificial intelligence along with patient information in a move they say will transform health care delivery and improve outcomes.

    It’s the latest step in the evolution of the fusion between health care and data.

    Prisma Health recently announced a partnership with Siemens Healthineers. And the Medical University of South Carolina has been working with Siemens Healthineers for years as well as Microsoft.

    Proponents say these arrangements benefit patients and providers alike. But they also raise concerns about the security of patient information.

    “What they’re doing is harnessing the power of big data to drive informed change and informed decision making,” said Dr. Christine Carr, an emergency physician and senior clinical advisor with the South Carolina Hospital Association.

    “Instead of a clinician on the floor saying, ‘I think this is the best way we should do our physician schedules or manage heart failure,’ we have so much data and analytic power now,” she told Integrated Media, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine. “It’s kind of like your iPhone, knowing where you’re going when you get in the car. We realize we have to get ahead of the disease.”

    If a patient has shortness of breath, for example, providers can use data tools to predict if he has a pulmonary embolism without doing any testing, Carr said. And if he does, other tools can help determine whether he should be admitted to the hospital or sent home on medication, she said.

    “The real power of using big data in health care is that it helps us deliver more efficient, high-quality care with fewer disparities,” adds Caroline Brown, chief of external affairs for MUSC and the Medical University Hospital Authority.

    “There is tremendous value in marrying disparate data that lives in different places to transform the way we deliver care. There are huge benefits for patients for this data to come together,” she said. “We can practice in a more preventive way than a reactive way.”

    But how accurate are these tools? Carr says they’re validated to a high degree of certainty so the clinician knows the risks.

    “They are extremely accurate,” she said, adding that doctors are still the ones making the decisions.  

    “It delivers information but you as a human have to ultimately decide what to do,” she said. “And any unique person is a unique person. Sometimes, I just override it. And sometimes I’m right. There are still humans, for now, at the end.”

    Another benefit of predictive analytics is lowering costs, Carr said.

    For instance, by analyzing a patient’s information, a doctor may determine that she only needs a mammogram every three years instead of annually, she said. And it can predict the risk of hospital readmissions too, she added, “which is a big financial driver for hospitals.”

    Carr speculates that all large health systems are getting into the predictive analytics space, adding that insurance companies have been using it for years to predict population health based on ZIP code, health history and socioeconomic factors.

    Founded in 1968, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is a for-profit system with some 2,000 care locations - including 186 hospitals - in 20 states and the United Kingdom.

    Google Cloud, which “aims to accelerate companies’ digital transformation,” says it has business customers in more than 200 countries.

    A spokesman for HCA said the company would have no comment beyond a press release and a Google spokeswoman did not return calls.

    But in that release, HCA CEO Sam Hazen said that “next-generation care demands data science-informed decision support so we can more sharply focus on safe, efficient and effective patient care.”

    And Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said, “The cloud can be an accelerant for innovation in health, particularly in driving data interoperability, which is critical in streamlining operations and providing better quality of care to improve patient outcomes.”

    Meanwhile, Adam Landau, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for HCA’s South Atlantic Division, said in an email that it’s too early to know what the partnership will mean for its South Carolina hospitals - Colleton Medical Center in Walterboro, Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach and Trident Health, which consists of Trident Medical Center in Charleston and Summerville Medical Center in Summerville.

    “I can tell you that we’re proud to be a part of HCA Healthcare,” he said. “In combination with significant investments in mobility to support clinical care … this partnership accelerates the work of HCA Healthcare clinicians, data scientists and developers by providing highly scalable technology from Google Cloud.”

    For example, he said, technology has been developed using predictive analytics that helps detect sepsis early, potentially saving lives. Another application uses clinical observations and ventilator-streamed data to reduce the length of stay for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and increase survival rates of Covid patients by 28 percent, he said.

    Brown said that health care is behind other consumer-driven industries in delivering on 21st century data technology.

    “One thing the … industry has been behind on is this whole consumer experience and digitalization of that over the last years,” she said. “Customers are expecting and demanding easier access to health care, they want to do so virtually from home, and in other formats that previously weren’t commonplace.”

    MUSC is using data analytics to help identify gaps in care, to map workflow so the system is more efficient, and to reduce wait times for patients, among other things, she said.

    A partnership with Medtronic uses more consistent monitoring technology in hospitalized patients to reduce the number of adverse respiratory events in patients prescribed opioids, she said. Another project aims to prevent hospitalizations by catching patients with heart failure and intervening earlier.

    MUSC also worked with Microsoft using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect and address potentially deadly sepsis in hospitalized patients, she said.

    Prisma said its 10-year partnership with Siemens will use AI to develop algorithms to help clinicians make more informed decisions, allowing for quicker and more precise diagnoses and treatment plans.

    Some of the AI will be embedded in new imaging machines as software while other AI will be developed through the partnership. Siemens will also have health economists on site studying new technologies to see if they reduce health care costs.

    But with a growing number of entities gaining access to patient information, just how secure are arrangements like these?

    Nationwide, the number of health information data breaches affecting 500 or more people grew from 329 in 2016 to 648 in 2020, with hacking events growing from 78 to 230 and ransomware attacks soaring from 36 to 199 during that time frame, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Ransomware is a multibillion-dollar industry, said James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    And hospitals make good targets because attackers are purely about the money and go after what will generate the most return, he added.

    “You can hack a hospital and make $4 million or hack an individual and make $4,000,” he said. “These guys like bulk business. Not onesies or twosies.”

    Most hospitals pay because it’s not worth the hassle, Lewis said.

    Some have insurance to cover ransomware attacks. But most attackers hone in on what they think the target can afford and go for that at the hospitals that are easier to breach, he said. And if they think the hospital can pay $4 million, they’ll start out asking for $6 million, he said.

    So moving to the cloud makes sense, Lewis said, because while it’s not impossible to hack, it is much more difficult and could be more secure. A lot depends on the terms of the contract, such as where the data will be stored and how it will limit the risk to privacy, he said.

    Both Google and HCA say their arrangement will protect patient privacy and data by using “layers of security controls and processes” and complying with federal privacy requirements.

    “The partnership is founded on strict guiding principles around privacy and security,” Landau said. “Our contract prohibits Google Cloud from the use of patient identifiable information.”

    Brown said MUSC also only uses deidentified patient data for its projects. That means information like names and addresses are removed but relevant clinical data remain, subject to privacy guide rails, she said.

    “Cybersecurity is a huge issue globally across all industries, and health care is no different,” she said. “Any arrangement … has to be done with utmost scrutiny to make sure patients are kept first, and commit to making sure they are protected.”

    A lot of the push for these types of relationships comes from hospitals looking to solve complex health care problems on a large scale, said MUSC chief information security officer Aaron Heath.

    Machine learning is helping to do that with the use of lots of data, he said, but when those two intersect, there has to be a mechanism to share the least amount of data necessary.

    At the end of the day, he said, a hospital doesn’t need to put patient privacy on the hook to solve its problems.

    “If we want to solve for sepsis in the hospital - detect it often and early and respond quickly - we don’t have to share patient data,” he said. “Hospitals are … only sharing the minimum amount of data to accomplish goals.”

    Nonetheless, he said, it’s not without risk and hospitals need to have contracts with digital companies that prevent data from being used for any other purpose.

    “There are a lot of controls we can take,” he said, “because it’s really important.”

    Prisma Health said that protecting patient privacy is critical and that it has multiple systems and checks in place to safeguard it.

    “As part of our Siemens Healthineers’ intelligent insights center, we will use de-identified, blinded patient data,” spokeswoman Sandy Dees said in a statement. “Under no circumstances will specific identifiers such as names, birth dates or addresses be used.”

    When it comes to ransomware, hospitals are in a tough position because they can’t stop business for an attack, said Heath. MUSC has layers of defense designed to mitigate the ransomware threat so if one is breached, another kicks in, he said.

    “You may not get hit by ransomware, but I can assure you your system is being targeted by phishing emails,” he said. “We are monitoring systems at all times to look for and flag potential phishing emails and get them out of our system because it’s such a common (and easy) avenue of attack. We have seen phishing emails come in to us intended to ultimately trigger an attack, but have caught them.”

    A significant problem in dealing with ransomware is that most attacks come from outside the U.S. and there’s a lack of international law enforcement to allay it, Heath said.

    “It’s a real challenge to stop this activity across the globe because it can be conducted from anywhere,” he said.

    So MUSC invests “quite a bit” in new technology and the staff to support it, he said. And the system is constantly monitoring security and conducting training because cybercrime is a moving target that requires frequent adjustments, he said.

    Still, Lewis said that ransomware “is not rocket science,” and that hospitals should be able to deal with it by backing up and encrypting data and spending more on IT to keep current.

    “A big cloud provider makes you more secure. It’s their business,” he said. “Hospitals - their business is patient care, and (those) that invest proactively are better able to protect data.”

    A federal health care cybersecurity task force established by HHS produced a report in 2017 that outlined ways to improve protection of health information, among them increasing the security and resilience of medical devices and health IT like electronic medical records; ensuring that the health care workforce prioritizes cybersecurity; and enhancing health care industry readiness through improved cybersecurity awareness and education.

    “It’s sad we have to do this,” Lewis said. “But it’s the world we’re in and we have to pay more attention.”

     September 10, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    South Carolina and National executive address what's next for South Carolina as we battle COVID. see more

    On September 9, 2021 SCBIO hosted a statewide webinar program entitled "COVID-19 and South Carolina:  What's Next?".  The program was attended by a large audience across South Carolina, including business leaders, healthcare executives, elected officials, and regional media.

    BIO’s Phyllis Arthur, Nephron Pharmaceutical’s Lou Kennedy and VCOM’s Matt Cannon shared their views on what obstacles we have to overcome to get through this latest surge, using science as the foundation. This discussion also addressed the science, data and real life experiences confronting us all as we manage our response to the Delta Variant of COVID-19.  It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss if you aren’t sure about vaccines, antibodies, masks and more.  

    Enjoy the program by clicking here.

     September 10, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    SCBIO takes aim at growing the presence of women in the life sciences industry see more

    Compliments of Scribble

    While COVID-19 brought the life sciences industry squarely into the world’s spotlight, the industry has been growing rapidly around the globe — and here in South Carolina — for quite some time.  From gene editing and stem cell research to health data analytics and telemedicine, amazing advances in next generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health, bio-agriculture and more are reshaping our world, while also saving and improving lives.

    Life sciences in South Carolina are on a growth spurt accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry has doubled since 2017, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion and over 43,000 employees — even before COVID’s surge of growth.

    To fully realize the opportunity that life sciences represent for South Carolina, the Board of Directors of SCBIO have placed a priority on increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry here at home — with action replacing perfunctory policies. Those efforts are bearing fruit.  

    As the official life sciences industry organization for South Carolina, SCBIO has implemented a range of commitments, actions, and programs to encourage advancement for individual women and minorities, cultivate the next generations of female leaders, and strengthen and deepen the bench of talented women workers and leaders in organizations statewide.

    Among SCBIO’s numerous initiatives are:

    Leading by Example – Besides my role as Interim CEO, women comprise some 25% of SCBIO’s board of directors today, which is led by a female Board Chairman, Lou Kennedy, CEO and Founder of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. The Board has also launched a new Life Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to support leadership development of women and minorities. The 2021-2022 SCBIO Strategic Plan for SC Life Sciences has an entire section dedicated to encouraging expanded women and minority participation in the industry.

    Relationship Building – Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Chief External Affairs Officer for MUSC Caroline Brown, and Vikor Scientific’s Partner & Co-Founder Shea Harrelson are a few of many visible leaders actively encouraging young women to expand relationships across life sciences.  This network of women leaders is deep and growing, consisting of female leaders in education, manufacturing, logistics, research, medicine, government, economic development and more who reach out to support each other’s development, share ideas, problem solve and encourage skill growth.   

    Supporting Career Choice for Young Women – Life science jobs are not just for M.D.s and Ph.Ds, but for technical college graduates, engineers, and biology and chemistry majors as well. With an average life sciences position paying $79,000 here, SCBIO is promoting the industry as a career path to students, guidance counselors and parents at the K-12 and two- and four-year college levels.  It is also developing an industry-advocated curriculum for technical colleges covering industry prescribed manufacturing processes, safety and technical protocols, soft skills and more.  A recent statewide Young Women in Life Sciences ZOOM drew over 500 high school attendees from dozens of schools across the state to learn about careers in life sciences.

    Connecting Young Women – Via events and community outreach such as Virtual Meetups for women in the industry and a Women in Life Sciences Visit with our Lt. Governor, SCBIO is connecting women at all levels of life sciences organizations across the state to share information on career paths, leading teams, personal development, handling difficult conversations, encouraging innovation and more to help them connect and learn together — and encourage others they know to consider the industry as a career path.

    Establishing New Partnerships – New partnerships such as serving as Presenting Sponsor of Furman University’s Women’s Leadership Institute and providing scholarships at the BMW-SYNNEX 2021 Women’s Executive Luncheon create new opportunities to have life sciences as a visible part of the discussion.     

    Now more than ever, women in life sciences are leading the way to the industry’s rapid growth and expansion in South Carolina… and around the world.  Here at home, SCBIO is working to inspire women of all ages to choose, grow and thrive in this dynamic industry by relying on, inspiring and supporting each other to attain even greater levels of success.

    The future is bright and getting even brighter as more women step up to lead the way to a brighter tomorrow.

     September 08, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Two life sciences companies make list for SCRA support see more

    Compliments of Midlands Biz

    Advent Innovations, LLC and DPX Technologies, LLC have been accepted as South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) Member Companies and awarded grant funding. Parimer Scientific, LLC and Prewrite, Inc. have been accepted as Member Companies. As Member Companies, they will receive coaching, access to experts in SCRA’s Resource Partner Network, eligibility to apply for grant funding, and the potential to be considered for an investment from SCRA’s affiliate, SC Launch, Inc.

    Advent Innovations Limited Company has been accepted as an SCRA Member Company and awarded a $50,000 Federal Matching Grant. The University of South Carolina-affiliated startup provides services in modeling, analysis, design, and product development using cutting-edge research with novel sensors, big data analytics, and other smart technology such as robotics. Their customers include private corporations and government entities in aerospace, automotive, civil infrastructure, and energy.

    DPX Technologies, LLC has been accepted as an SCRA Member Company and awarded a $50,000 Federal Matching Grant. The University of South Carolina-affiliated company manufactures sample lab preparation products and develops custom methods for a diverse client base. Their proprietary and patented INTip™ technologies provide efficient, automated solutions for laboratories that are easy to customize and implement with any workflow or method.

    Parimer Scientific, LLC has been accepted as an SCRA Member Company. The Easley-based company provides turn-key laboratory services at competitive rates to biotech and pharmaceutical companies with no upfront capital or long-term commitment needed. In 2020 alone, more than 10,000 units of pharmaceutical products were made at Parimer and shipped directly to the end-users at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes.

    Prewrite, Inc. has been accepted as an SCRA Member Company. The Greenville-based startup offers a story development platform for writers, producers, and content creators of all types. Their powerful tool ensures the writer is using good story fundamentals. Stories of any complexity are easily built, piece-by-piece. Originally designed for screenplays, Prewrite is used around the world by professionals and amateurs alike.

    SCRA welcomes these new Member Companies!

    Grant funding is made possible, in part, by Industry Partnership Fund (IPF) contributions that fuel the state’s innovation economy. Contributors to the IPF receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit, making it an easy and effective way to help one of the fastest growing segments of the South Carolina economy. Grant funding for Member Companies creates a direct, positive economic effect and job creation.

    About SCRA
    https://scra.org/
    Chartered in 1983 by the State of South Carolina as a public, nonprofit corporation, South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) fuels South Carolina’s innovation economy through the impact of its four programs. SC Academic Innovations provides funding and support to advance translational research and accelerate the growth of university-based startups. SC Facilities offers high-quality laboratory and administrative workspaces for technology-based startups and academic institutions. SC Industry Solutions facilitates and funds partnerships between and among startups, industry, and academia. SC Launch mentors and funds technology-based startups that may also receive investments from SCRA’s investment affiliate, SC Launch, Inc.

     September 08, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Life sciences expands career opportunities for SC graduates see more

    Compliments of Lowcountry Graduate Press

    COVID caused pain and heartache and death across the world and here in the Lowcountry, but it also revealed some bright spots. One of those is the life sciences industry, which was responsible for diagnosing COVID, providing responses, and ultimately developing effective vaccines.

    Coincidentally, the life sciences industry in South Carolina is itself on a growth spurt that was accelerated by the pandemic. The number of firms in the industry had doubled in the last four years, making it the fastest-growing industry sector in the state. The Darla Moore School of Business estimated its annual economic impact at $12 billion before the most recent spike.

    Life sciences produce next-generation pharmaceuticals and vaccines; advanced medical devices, diagnostics, and testing; digital health; bioscience distribution; bio-agriculture and biomaterials; and biological solutions for advanced manufacturing.

    Life sciences also encompass two areas of focus for the Lowcountry Graduate Center – advanced manufacturing and healthcare management. While the connection with healthcare is obvious, many people don’t realize that life science research and advanced manufacturing work symbiotically. Many life science innovations, like medical devices, require advanced manufacturing to produce, while life science innovations can power the process of advanced manufacturing itself.

    Career Opportunities in Life Sciences

    That means jobs, and not just for M.D.s and Ph.D.’s, but for technical college graduates and university biology and chemistry majors as well. The average life sciences position pays $79,000, according to the official state affiliate of the U.S. Biotechnology Innovation Organization, also referred to as SCBIO, the nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the life sciences industry in S.C. Because workforce development is the primary challenge facing the industry, SCBIO is engaged in an initiative to promote the industry as a career path for students, guidance counselors, and parents at the K-12 level and in two- and four-year college.

    Indeed, SCBIO is in the process of developing an industry-advocated life sciences curriculum for technical colleges that can prepare graduates for jobs in the field. Courses would cover manufacturing processes; safety and technical protocols like measurements and ISO standards; soft skills required for all workplaces; and the connections between the various life science components and the life-saving innovations they support.

    “We want to get to students even sooner so we’re partnering with organizations that are already in schools to add more of the ‘S’ in STEM,” said Erin Ford, interim CEO at SCBIO. “If someone takes a course at Trident Tech, they can get a job paying $50,000 or more with health insurance while working on a product that helps people live better lives.”

    The vector of life science development is different depending on the area of the state, with the Lowcountry showing strength in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing, says Ford.

    Life Science Companies Need Space to Grow

    Besides workforce development, the next big challenge constraining growth is space. Lab space at the new WestEdge development in downtown Charleston was fully subscribed when it opened and now developers are seeking new space. Clean labs are more complex and costly to retrofit and build than ordinary office or warehouse space.

    Nonetheless, the firms keep coming – or starting – and the state has gotten behind the industry. As a critical step, it authorized and funded SCBIO as the state’s lead life sciences industry economic development organization.

    Life science provides more than just more job growth: it provides diversification of an economy that 30 years ago relied heavily on a Navy base that packed up and left. Life sciences are more recession-resistant than automotive and aeronautics, two areas of manufacturing strength in the Lowcountry that respond to retail market demand. People never cease needing health innovations.

    Recognizing that, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) and South Carolina Research Authority have backed the industry. CRDA was the first development authority in the state to build map out a strategic plan to attract and retain life science businesses.

    Headwinds for Life Sciences in South Carolina

    Sam Konduros of KOR Medical, a clinical cannabis firm launched by the Charleston-based diagnostic and testing company Vikor Scientific, says South Carolina and SCBIO have created a business climate conducive to the industry, and the health care and advanced manufacturing infrastructure have added tailwinds to its development. Citing Vikor’s growth from 45 employees to 450 during COVID, he says recruiting a talented workforce has not been a significant challenge so far. He notes the usual Charleston quality-of-life benefits – weather, beaches, history, and food, in addition to the growing vibrancy of the industry – as recruiting tools have contributed to the success.

    Ford and Konduros see possible headwinds elsewhere for the industry. Roadways and other transportation infrastructure could use improvement, and housing availability and affordability are statewide issues. For example, the state’s franchise tax, now eliminated by 36 states, penalizes early-stage companies successfully raising venture capital before going to market. In an industry that often spends millions to earn FDA approval prior to commercialization, the tax is a burden, they say.

     September 02, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Furman commitment to Greenville and South Carolina growing see more

    Compliments Furman University News

    Furman is expanding its downtown presence – and planning one of the school’s greatest investments in the Greenville community – with the addition of a 2,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of 101 N. Main St. in One City Plaza.

    The storefront suite in the former Bank of America building next to Methodical Coffee is being designed as “an experiential learning environment,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

    “This will be one of our most visible commitments to connect Furman’s main campus with the local community,” he said.

    The One City Plaza location is the latest example of Furman’s growing presence and engagement with the community, said Liz Seman, chief of staff and liaison to Furman’s Board of Trustees.

    “From the West End to Heritage Green, to our beautiful campus on Poinsett Highway, Furman is proud to be Greenville’s University,” said Seman. “We are excited to add the space at One City Plaza to our downtown footprint. Students, faculty, staff and alumni will now have the opportunity to engage with the Greenville community at Fluor Field, M. Judson Booksellers, the Upcountry History Museum and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. All of these venues provide unique opportunities for collaboration and high-impact experiences, which are the hallmark of The Furman Advantage.”

    A multipurpose area with flexible furniture, the space will be quickly convertible to host a wide array of programs, workshops and events, Herrera said. Select graduate and undergraduate courses, continuing education certificates, workshops, speaker series and networking events will be delivered throughout the week to develop leaders and “lifelong learners” throughout the city.

    Along with the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Furman’s three other institutes – The Riley InstituteThe Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities and The Institute for Advancement of Community Health – will offer programming. Furman’s Center for Corporate and Professional Development and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, as well as the school’s academic, alumni relations and athletics departments, will also present events.

    The facility, expected to open later this year or soon after the new year, can benefit both Furman and Greenville by encouraging students to ultimately get full-time positions and stay in the city, said Herrera.

    “This space will connect our students and faculty more intentionally with the business and nonprofit community for a pipeline of talent for internships, full-time jobs, research and impactful collaborations,” he said. “It will further carry out Furman’s mission of delivering transformative experiences for lifelong learners. We want to expand our commitment to serving the Greenville community and ensuring Greenville continues to thrive.”

    Another catalyst for the development is this fall’s launch of the GVL Starts program, an eight-week program for aspiring entrepreneurs to network and learn skills to develop their potential startups and small businesses, he said.

    The ground floor space won’t be the only place to find Furman purple in the former Bank of America building. In December 2020, Furman University President Elizabeth Davis announced that the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will join the city of Greenville’s economic development team in locating offices in downtown Greenville with NEXT, an entrepreneurial-support organization that operates under the Greenville Chamber Foundation, on the third floor of 101 N. Main St.

     September 02, 2021
  • sam patrick posted an article
    Innovation booming across Palmetto State see more

    Compliments of GSA Business Report


    The InnoVision Awards Board of Directors is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2021 InnoVision Awards. This year’s finalists include both large and small organizations, representing an array of industries, from the upstate to the coast – a true reflection of South Carolina’s robust innovation economy.

    InnoVision Awards honor South Carolina individuals and organizations for impactful innovations under development in South Carolina within the last 18 months. The annual awards are the mark of distinction for the many organizations, individuals, educators and leaders who have been honored over the 23-year history of the InnoVision Awards.

    The 2021 finalists in the six award categories are:

    Technology Development
    ArchCath LLC (Awendaw)
    Elastrin Therapeutics Inc. (Simpsonville)
    FRD Accel, LLC (Charleston)

    Community Service
    Advoco (Greenville)
    Camp Happy Days (Charleston)
    United Way of the Piedmont (Spartanburg)

    Small Enterprise
    Aconabolics LLC (Greenville)
    Mia Nipple System LLC (Travelers Rest)
    Veterans ASCEND (Simpsonville)

    Education
    Early College High School, Charleston County School District (Charleston)
    IT-oLogy (Columbia)
    SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (Greenville)

    Technology Integration
    Diversey Holdings Ltd. (Fort Mill)
    PunchList USA (Charleston)
    QuicksortRx Inc (Charleston)

    Sustainability
    Clemson Composites Center (Greenville)
    Ingevity (North Charleston)
    Geomat, LLC (Columbia)

    All finalists will be recognized during the InnoVision Meet the Finalists (MTF) Series sponsored by the South Carolina Research Authority. The 2021 MTF Series will be held virtually at 4 PM on three consecutive Tuesdays: September 28, October 5 and October 12. Each MTF reception will feature finalists in two award categories. They are open to the public and are free to those who register in advance.

    InnoVision’s annual awards program will culminate with the Annual Awards Celebration on November 9th. The Awards Celebration will showcase each finalist’s innovation with a video profile, announce the winner in each award category, and present two special awards: The Ibrahim Janajreh Young Innovator Award and the Dr. Charles Townes Individual Achievement Award.

    In 2020, the virtual Awards Celebration attracted more than 500 viewers from across the country and several international locations. The Meet the Finalists Series and the Awards Celebration event are open to those who register in advance. You may sign up to receive an invitation and notification at www.innovisionawards.org.

    About InnoVision Awards

    InnoVision, founded in 1999, is a grass-roots, volunteer-led non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of innovation and technology in South Carolina. Through its Annual Awards Celebration, InnoVision recognizes and honors South Carolina businesses, individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding advancements in these areas. InnoVision also highlights innovative achievements through daily posts on the InnoVision Awards Linkedin page and a weekly Spotlight on Innovation newsletter. InnoVision Forums held throughout the year provide opportunities for peers to learn about key advancements, innovation and leading edge technologies from other innovators.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Greenville company enters MOU with global player see more

     Xcelerate, Inc. (OTC pink sheets: "XCRT") today announced that it has signed a Definitive Memorandum of Understanding with HS Pharmaceuticals, LLC of Greenville, SC defining the terms under which Xcelerate, Inc. will acquire 100% of the membership interests in HS Pharmaceuticals, LLC as well as a 51% interest in HS Cosmetics, Inc.

    The DMOU calls for the drafting and signing of an Acquisition Agreement with a pre-determined valuation of HS Pharmaceuticals as well as the raising of capital sufficient to progress the development of HS Pharmaceuticals IP and to fulfill the expansion of the current HS Cosmetics marketing plan launched in April of 2021.

    "Since the announcement of a letter of intent with HS Pharmaceuticals in May, the teams at Xcelerate and HS have been working to define the terms that have resulted in this DMOU and were able to agreement with the assistance of our advisors at Network1 Financial who will be working with us going forward in our capital raising efforts" said Michael O'Shea, Xcelerate CEO."

    "Xcelerate remains focused on joining early-stage medical technology companies in a setting of controlled clinical care where these new developments can be trialed, tested and applied," said O'Shea. 

    For more information, please visit www.xcelerate.global.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Life sciences among segments leading SC growth see more

    Compliments of GSA Business Report

    When Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey saw his first iPhone, he was seeing one of the first in the world. In 2007, it was one of only two.

    At the time, he was the Southeast president of AT&T, in a room among the company’s top leadership.

    When all eyes were on the company chairman, he reached into the pocket of his suit.

    “He pulled out this object that none of us recognized and said, ‘This is one of two existing iPhones in the world. The other one is held by Stephen Jobs, and I’ve got this one. This device has convinced me that it is going to change the world, but I have no idea how it’s going to change the world, but I’m convinced it’s going to change the world,’” Lightsey recounted at Upstate SC Alliance’s midyear meeting, held at the Crowne Plaza Greenville Wednesday.

    How today’s developments will mold the business landscape as we know it is yet to be seen, he said.

    No one knows.

    But, Lightsey assured the crowd of alliance investors, it’s shifting in the direction of ever-growing mobility, communications and biotech capabilities. And it’s shifting fast.

    It’s South Carolina’s job to keep up and stay ahead, he said during one of his first public appearances in the Upstate since he took the secretary’s post.

    “I do know this, that we have to be ready for change,” he said. “We have to be ready for the opportunities that the change is going to present to us. We shouldn’t view change as a threat or a concern, but as certainly something we can capitalize on.”

    Much of the afternoon meeting focused on economic development victories of the past year within the life sciences, tech or R&D realms: a few vignettes from the 22 companies that moved to or expanded in the 10 counties in 2021 with Upstate SC Alliance’s assistance.

    Upstate SC Alliance projects Pozyx, a Belgian information technology firm, and Oshkosh Defense’s manufacturing facility for the next generation mail truck held the spotlight, alongside BMW’s electrification efforts and Upstate biotech companies Zylo Therapeutics, Chartspan and Epica International.

    Upstate SC Alliance’s announcements for the year thus far have prompted the creation of an expected 3,963 jobs and $930 million total investment.

    “When many areas saw contractions in service, South Carolina’s manufacturing sector actually grew last year,” John Lummus, CEO and president of Upstate SC Alliance, said during the meeting. “And manufacturing and its need for engineering, technology and creative solutions will continue to drive our growth strategy moving forward. That’s why you’re seeing a stronger focus on innovation as a complement to our business recruitment program.”

    He added that on the economic development announcement front, so far, 2021 has brought in three times the capital investment and twice the number of created jobs as 2019, especially in sectors bolstering enhanced mobility and health care services.

    According to the group’s midyear report, the largest number of projects in the pipeline are in the engineered materials (263), automotive and transport (238), industrial manufacturing (155), life sciences (146) and aerospace and defense (144) fields. The first half of 2021 prompted 23 requests for information on economic development opportunities in the Upstate.

    Domestic companies — 414 contacts to be exact — are the most likely, judging by the number of active contacts, to make the move to the Upstate in the months ahead.

    International supply chains and travel may have been hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, but it didn’t completely derail progress, especially with the virtual playing field provided by a tectonic shift to Zoom conference rooms and continued in-person visits from leaders like Belgium’s Consul General in Atlanta, Michael Gerebtzoff.

    The majority — almost 60% — of the companies that expanded in or moved to the area throughout 2021 were foreign-owned businesses: Deutsche Post DHL’s subsidiary DHL Supply Chain, Sweden’s Frauenthal Gnotec, Ireland’s E+I Engineering USA and China’s Gissing North America, just to name a few.

    Looking forward, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Spain, China, France, India, Belgium and Italy respectively are the hottest international sources for Upstate economic development prospects based off the number of active contacts.

    “We have a lot of strengths and inherent advantages just because of who we are and where are,” Lightsey said. “But one of our main strengths is that we are a small state and we understand what it means to work together as a team. Commerce is a state agency that has supported the alliances’ growth and maturation of the alliances across the state, and the Upstate Alliance has certainly led the way, is something that’s incredible strength for our state: the ability to be able to work together for both our existing businesses, as well as those businesses that are looking to be partners with our state.”

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Development is the largest agriculture-based Opportunity Zone project in the nation see more

    Compliments of Post and Courier

    Environmental permitting is underway for the Agriculture-Technology Campus in Hampton County, with a goal of starting operations at the indoor farming supersite by the end of next year.

    The $314 million development is being billed as the largest agriculture-based Opportunity Zone project in the nation. Its announcement last September at the Southern Carolina Industrial Campus off Interstate 95 in Early Branch attracted hundreds of boosters, including the nation’s top farm official at the time in Sonny Perdue — the agriculture chief under former President Donald Trump.

    Thing have been relatively quiet since then, but plenty of work has been taking place behind the scenes, said Kay Maxwell, marketing manager for the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance.

    She said a group of precision farming specialists from the Netherlands spent months conducting studies at the industrial park to determine how greenhouses there can get the maximum benefit from sunlight, humidity and other weather conditions. The Netherlands is the world’s second-leading agricultural exporter, behind the United States, and has pioneered indoor growing techniques that use little water or soil and no pesticides.

    More traditional studies — such as wetlands permitting and geotechnical engineering — are now taking place, Maxwell said. The alliance also is marketing the project to companies interested in either growing crops at the property or using an onsite packaging and distribution center to deliver South Carolina-grown products to store shelves.

    “We have talked to companies as far as Europe and Asia, as well as a lot of domestic companies, that are very interested in South Carolina because of this project,” Maxwell said. “There are a lot of different avenues in which other companies can be involved.”

    While the Ag-Tech Campus has five years to qualify for state and local tax credits, Maxwell said she expects some operations will begin much sooner.

    The project also qualifies for a $7 million rural infrastructure grant from the state that would pass through Hampton County Council, though none of the funds have been released to date, according to the S.C. Commerce Department.

    The Ag-Tech Campus is a partnership between Columbia-based finance group GEM Opportunity Fund and a trio of food and packaging firms that will grow produce in environmentally controlled greenhouses at the 1,000-acre site.

    Zeb Portanova, chief executive of GEM, said in a March 30 interview with Fundviews Podcast that he had recently submitted a financing package for the project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The agency is providing grants for Opportunity Zone projects, which are also eligible for federal tax breaks and fall under a program designed to encourage investment in low-income urban and rural communities.

    Portanova has said the Ag-Tech Campus will create roughly 1,500 jobs by 2025. Another GEM project — a $30 million hemp growing and processing facility — will be nearby. Maxwell said greenhouses are already being constructed for the latter project, which is expected to create 107 jobs, and start operations by the end of this year.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    More than $19 million in grants to several key connected health projects see more

    Compliments of mHealth Intelligence

    The federal government is investing more than $19 million in key telehealth initiatives, including the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) and Telehealth Centers of Excellence (COE) program.

    Some 36 awards are being distributed by the Health and Human Services Department through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to some of the nation’s highest-profile connected health projects. The investments are aimed at strengthening programs and supporting innovation in areas that have seen record adoption and growth during the pandemic.

    “Telehealth expands access to care and is a vital tool for improving health equity by providing timely clinical assessment and treatment for our most vulnerable populations,” HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa said in a press release issued this morning. “This funding will help drive the innovation necessary to build clinical networks, educational opportunities, and trusted resources to further advance telehealth.”

    The TRC consortium, which consists of 12 regional and two national centers, is getting $4.55 million – or $325,000 per site - to bolster and expand their efforts. The TRCs, which provide a wide range of guidance and resources, have seen heavy traffic over the past year and a half as healthcare providers and other organizations have adopted telehealth to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Telehealth COE program, meanwhile, is getting $6.5 million to expand services and strategies aimed at improving access and outcomes in underserved parts of the country that deal with high chronic care needs and poverty, and to serve as incubators for new telehealth ideas. Located in academic medical centers, COEs are seen as national models for evidence-based programs and strategies that promote best practices.

    In 2017, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) were designated Telehealth Centers of Excellence. The award is being split between the two programs.

    The Evidence-Based Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth Network Program (EB-TNP) is getting roughly $3.8 million to bolster its DTC telehealth efforts. Those awards are being issued to 11 organizations: HealthHIE Georgia, Cornerstone Whole Healthcare in Idaho, Drake University in Iowa, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Baptist Health Foundation Corbin in Kentucky, MaineHealth, UMMC, Lester E. Cox Medical University in Missouri, the Ben Archer Health Center in New Mexico, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Texas A&M University.

    Finally, the Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Program (TTELP) is getting about $4.28 million to “help specialists at academic medical centers provide training and support to primary care providers in rural, frontier, and other underserved areas to help treat patients with complex conditions ranging from long COVID to substance use disorders in their communities.”

    Those awards are going to nine organizations: Community Health Center in Connecticut, the American Academy of Pediatrics in Illinois, the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Medical Care Development in Maine, the JSI Research and Training Institute in Massachusetts, President and Fellows of Harvard College in Massachusetts, the University of New Mexico, Oregon Health & Science University and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Charles River Labs quietly continues its critical work to save lives see more

    Compliments of the Associated Press

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — It’s one of the stranger, lesser-known aspects of U.S. health care — the striking, milky-blue blood of horseshoe crabs is a critical component of tests to ensure injectable medications such as coronavirus vaccines aren’t contaminated.

    To obtain it, harvesters bring many thousands of the creatures to laboratories to be bled each year, and then return them to the sea — a practice that has drawn criticism from conservationists because some don’t survive the process.

    The blood, which is blue due to its copper content, is coveted for proteins used to create the LAL test, a process used to screen medical products for bacteria. Synthetic alternatives aren’t widely accepted by the health care industry and haven’t been approved federally, leaving the crabs as the only domestic source of this key ingredient.

    Many of these crabs are harvested along the coast of South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster promoted the niche industry as key to the development of a domestic medical supply chain, while also noting that environmental concerns should be explored.

    “We don’t want to have to depend on foreign countries for a lot of reasons, including national security, so it’s good to see this company thriving in the United States,” McMaster told The Associated Press. He spoke this month during a visit to Charles River Laboratories at its Charleston facilities, to which AP was granted rare access. “We want to do everything we can to onshore all of these critical operations.”

    Horseshoe crabs — aquatic arthropods shaped like helmets with long tails — are more akin to scorpions than crabs, and older than dinosaurs. They’ve been scurrying along the brackish floors of coastal waters for hundreds of millions of years. Their eggs are considered a primary fat source for more than a dozen species of migratory shore birds, according to South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources.

    Their value to avoiding infection emerged after scientists researching their immune response injected bacteria into horseshoe crabs in the 1950s. They ultimately developed the LAL test, and the technique has been used since the 1970s to keep medical materials and supplies free of bacteria.

    Their biomedical use has been on the rise, with 464,482 crabs brought to biomedical facilities in 2018, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

    In South Carolina, that’s done only by Charles River, a Massachusetts-based company that tests 55% of the world’s injectables and medical devices — like IV bags, dialysis solutions and even surgical cleaning wipes, according to company officials.

    “We are almost the last line of defense before these drugs leave the manufacturing area and make it to a patient,” senior vice president Foster Jordan told McMaster. “If it touches your blood, it’s been tested by LAL. And, more than likely, it’s been tested by us.”

    Charles River employs local fishermen to harvest the crabs by hand, a process governed by wildlife officials that can only happen during a small annual window, when the creatures come ashore to spawn.

    Contractors bring them to the company’s bleeding facilities, then return them to the waters from which they came. During a year, Jordan said his harvesters can bring in 100,000 to 150,000 horseshoe crabs, and still can’t satisfy the growing demand.

    “We need more, though,” Jordan told McMaster, adding that his company is working with the state to open up more harvesting areas. “The population’s steady. ... We need access to more beaches, to get more crabs.”

    The practice is not without its critics, some of whom have argued that bleeding the crabs and hauling them back and forth is harmful. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10% to 15% of harvested crabs die during the process.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species overall as “vulnerable,” noting decreasing numbers as of a 2016 assessment. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission listed 2019 stock as “good” in the Southeast, but “poor” in areas around New York.

    Conservationists sued last year, accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of shirking its duty to protect areas including South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge by allowing horseshoe crab harvesting. They argued that taking out the crabs affects other species in the protected area. A federal judge temporarily halted the harvest, but was reversed following Charles River’s appeal.

    The environmental groups asked to withdraw their complaint this month after federal officials imposed a permitting process for any commercial activity in the refuge, including horseshoe harvesting, beginning Aug. 15. Even if such permits are denied, Jordan told McMaster that only 20% of its harvest came from the refuge, with most coming from further down the South Carolina coast.

    There is a synthetic alternative to the horseshoe crab blood, but it hasn’t been widely accepted in the U.S., and meanwhile, Charles River’s international competitors are making synthetics and also pressing for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which Jordan said could hamper domestic efforts like his own.

    “My mission is to make sure that any competitor that comes into the United States, from China or any of these other producers, has to go through the same regulatory process that we had to go through, to make sure that it’s safe,” Jordan said. “If all these synthetics start coming in from other countries, we’re going to lose the protection that we’ve had for all these years, and the safety, and the control of the drug supply.”

    “We want to have as much stuff made here as we can,” McMaster said in response.

    As for the environmental concerns, the governor said maintaining a healthy balance between scientific demands and the state’s ecosystems, which bolster a significant portion of South Carolina’s tourism economy, is paramount.

    “It’s like a house of cards. You pull out one part, and the rest of it will fall,” McMaster said. “So I think we have to be very careful, and be sure that any company, any business, any activity, whether it’s commercial or otherwise, meets whatever requirements are there to protect the species — birds, horseshoe crabs, any sort of life.”

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Exciting new development from MUSC co-founded technology see more

    SpheroFill, a company co-founded by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researcher William Hill, Ph.D., is helping to convert swords into plowshares with more than a quarter million dollars in funding from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer grant. Hill is a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at MUSC and a research scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

    Hill and SpheroFill are developing microsphere technology to create a unique oral drug delivery platform that will allow for protected, controlled release of drugs over time. The microsphere technology was originally created for strategic purposes by the Department of Energy at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and then converted for civilian purposes by the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Aiken, South Carolina. 

    The other co-founders of SpheroFill are George Wicks, Ph.D., of ARC, and ENT-otolaryngologist  Paul Weinberger, M.D. Wicks co-invented the microsphere technology while at the SRNL. Together with MUSC and ARC, the three inventors have submitted a patent on the oral and other drug delivery approaches.

    Hill, who serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, is excited about the collaboration between SpheroFill, MUSC and ARC.

    “The Applied Research Center is a nonprofit research and development organization established to transfer technology from the SRNL and academic institutions and to assist start-up companies where possible,” explained Hill. “It is the value of the taxpayers’ investment being amplified into novel uses that can create new jobs and expand the economy of South Carolina. ARC’s goal is to build a technology base in Aiken County and the state. Importantly, ARC has been a key initial investor for us.”  

    The microspheres are hollow spheres with a large cargo capacity contained by a porous silica glass outer shell. Complex nanoscale channels connect the interior cargos with the outside world. 

    “A microsphere is about a third the diameter of a human hair,” said Hill. “You can actually load the microspheres with different cargos, drugs in this case, and then control the release rate of materials coming out of them.”

    Once in the body, the microspheres will release the drug as the outer coating degrades and the nanopores open. The technology could help pharmaceutical companies overcome a serious hurdle in developing oral drugs. Drugs taken by mouth often break down in the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal system. 

    “The pharmaceutical industry has a large number of drugs that are difficult to deliver orally – either because they don't dissolve very well in the aqueous system that we have in our gastrointestinal tract, or because they are very reactive and will be broken down very quickly by enzymes there,” said Hill. 

    By encasing the drugs, the microspheres protect them from this harsh environment and enable them to reach their target locations, where they release their contents. As a result, less drug is wasted, which is a savings for both pharmaceutical companies and consumers. This will be particularly important with expensive drugs and newer sensitive biological drugs.

    The technology not only allows more efficient delivery of existing oral drugs, but it also makes possible the oral delivery of new types of drugs. 

    “There is also an ability to deliver drugs in ways that they never could have been delivered before, such as in gaseous form” said Hill. “We're trying to develop new ways to deliver agents that aren't really drugs now because they're just too difficult to use as drugs.”

    Hill is excited by the possibilities. With the technology, he speculates that insulin could be delivered orally instead of injected under the skin. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which typically affect the entire body, could be released directly into a tumor, helping to spare healthy tissue. 

    The technology could also help patients with better medication compliance. Many drugs, such as antibiotics, must be taken daily over several days. When patients begin feeling better, they may discontinue taking the medication prematurely, leading to drug resistance and other problems. 

    “SpheroFill allows patients to have effective drug dosing over extended time, so the patient only has to take the drug once or possibly twice,” said Hill.

    At MUSC, Hill’s research team is working on testing different polymers that can serve as coatings for the microspheres, with the aim of having different drug-release rates with different coatings, ranging from days to months.  

    “The cool thing is that you can have microspheres with different thicknesses of coatings or entirely different coatings, which will release materials at different rates,” said Hill. “And we can mix them together to have overlapping or sequential releases of the same or different drugs for an extended period of time,” said Hill. 

    The team is working on controlling drug release by measuring release rates for different coatings. Once Hill and his team complete this step, they will next study how well the microspheres with the different coatings work as a drug-delivery platform, first in animals and then in humans.

    Hill believes that the support from the NSF is an important milestone for Spherofill and is grateful to the MUSC Foundation for Research Development for its help with the application. 

    “It’s exciting to get this stamp of approval from the NSF,” said Hill. This hard-to-acquire support says that it believes the technology and the company are worth the investment to help with technical development and assistance through its strong commercialization infrastructure. This will also help to open doors for us to partners and customers.” 

    In addition to improving drug delivery, SpheroFill and its partners also hope to support the South Carolina economy by bringing research and development, high-tech and pharmaceutical jobs to Charleston, Aiken and other areas of the state.  

    U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson see that economic potential.

    “The funding will allow SpheroFill to create advancements in the medical field, and I appreciate NSF working to help turn this into a reality,” said Graham.

    Wilson, too, acknowledged the NSF’s generous funding of SpheroFill’s valuable collaboration.

    “The synergy between SpheroFill, the Applied Research Center and the Savannah River National Laboratory has allowed this research to gain momentum, providing transformative opportunities in medical treatments,” said Wilson. “I am grateful that NSF recognized and rewarded the talent here in our community.”

     

    About the Medical University of South Carolina 

    Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit musc.edu.

    As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 2,000 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eleven hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Fairfield, Florence, Kershaw, Lancaster and Richland counties. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit muschealth.org.

    MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.6 billion. The more than 20,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Lecture hall in new facility to be named for donor see more

    A lecture hall in the college’s new pharmacy facility will be named the Bobby Gene ‘63 and Barbara Harter Rippy Lecture Hall.

    Noted Union, South Carolina, philanthropist Barbara Harter Rippy has made a $1 million commitment to the College of Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). The donation will support the mission and vision of the college.

    In recognition of this major gift, the college is naming the lecture hall in its new pharmacy facility the Bobby Gene ‘63 and Barbara Harter Rippy Lecture Hall. A virtual groundbreaking for the new facility was held in April.

    “The Rippys exemplify the best characteristics of independent community pharmacy ownership,” said Philip Hall, Pharm.D., dean of the MUSC College of Pharmacy. “Trusted caregivers, community leaders, dedicated to customers, good businesspeople and great models for our students. We’re delighted the Rippy name will have such a prominent place at MUSC.”

    For 34 years, the Rippys owned and operated Smith Drug Store on Main Street in Union. In 1959, Bobby Rippy enrolled at the MUSC College of Pharmacy while Barbara Rippy continued to work, supporting the family until her husband earned a pharmacy degree that would eventually enable them to buy Smith Drug Store in 1969.

    The Rippys became community leaders and benefactors, supporting civic and church organizations as well as sponsoring a Dixie Youth baseball team for 44 years. They retired in 2004 and continued to be vibrant and active parts of Union civic life, participating in and supporting more than a half dozen organizations. Bobby Rippy passed away in 2012.

    The Rippys have long been known for their generosity of spirit; they were giving back when they barely had anything to give. Barbara Rippy credits God first for her ability to give so generously. Not long after opening the pharmacy, when a customer had charged children’s prescriptions four times in a row, Bobby Rippy said, “As long as I live, and I’ve got any money, no child will go without their medication.” They stuck by that maxim, and when they closed, they were still owed $75,000.

    “We didn’t miss one dime of that,” Barbara Rippy said. “When you’re good to people, they are good to you. After all the professors did for Bobby to help him become a pharmacist, I told Larry  that I wanted to give the College of Pharmacy $1 million so that students for years to come would have the same opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming pharmacists as well,” she explained, recounting her conversation with Larry Craine, her longtime financial advisor.

    The lecture hall named after the Rippys in the new pharmacy facility reflects that special bond between student and professors. The state-of-the-art lecture hall is dedicated for pharmacy instruction, making it a vital and highly visible site of shared experience for every MUSC pharmacy student and faculty member.

    “Having a dedicated lecture hall for them to learn and interact is essential,” said Chris Wisniewski, Pharm.D., professor and nationally acclaimed expert in pharmacy education. “New space with new technology allows faculty to experiment in the educational realm and identify new ways to educate our students.”