SCBIO takes aim at growing the presence of women in the life sciences industry see more
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.
Ford named to Icons list in Columbia, SC see more
Twenty-four community leaders, from a hospital CEO leading the charge against COVID-19 to a public servant helping fight homelessness, have been honored as 2021 Columbia Regional Business Report Icons & Phenoms.
For the third year, the Business Report is honoring a pair of groups making an impact on the area business scene: Icons, the respected pillars who have established standards of business and civic excellence; and Phenoms, the motivated go-getters who are getting things done in new and exciting ways.
Honorees represent industries ranging from finance and law to nonprofits and engineering and will be recognized at an Aug. 25 luncheon at the DoubleTree by Hilton Columbia. Tickets are still available, so come help celebrate your friends and colleagues. And don't forget to congratulate them online using the hashtag #crbriconsphenoms.
Award recipients, nominated by Business Report readers and selected by a panel of judges, will be recognized at an online event Aug. 5. A profile of each honoree will be published in the July 20 print edition of the Business Report.
The 2021 Columbia Regional Business Report Icons & Phenoms are:
- Tod Augsburger, president and CEO, Lexington Medical Center
- John Barnes, co-founder and CEO, Pendleton Street Business Advisors
- Linda Bell, S.C. state epidemiologist and director of DHEC's Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
- Sara Fawcett, president and CEO, United Way of the Midlands
- Erin Ford, interim CEO, SCBIO
- Cheryl Holland, president of Abacus Planning Group
- Dominik Mjartan, president and CEO, Optus Bank
- Mary Louise Resch, director of Philanthropy, Central S.C. Habitat for Humanity
- Pat Smith, agency director, Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School
- Byron Snellgrove, city of Cayce director of public safety
- Joe Taylor, owner, Park and Washington
- Ram'on Wideman, owner/president and CEO of Anointed Business Solutions LLC
- Phill Blair, owner, The Whig/WECO Bottle & Biergarten
- Lyndey Bryant, business litigation attorney, Adams and Reese LLP
- Ryan Coleman, director of economic development for the city of Columbia
- Joseph Dickey, managing partner, Dickey Law Group
- Tracy Hegler, city manager, city of Cayce
- Ashley Hunter, CEO, MPA Strategies
- Amanda Loveday, COO, NP Strategy
- Shayla Merritt, senior marketing coordinator, SSOE | Stevens & Wilkinson
- Travis McNeal, executive director, Oliver Gospel Mission
- Katie Oliver, CFO, DartPoints LLC
- Josh Rabon, managing partner, Civil Engineering of Columbia
- Tommy Volz, Eastern U.S. sponsorship marketing manager, Wells Fargo
Largest donation ever granted to university’s College of Science see more
Clemson graduate Emily Peek Wallace is giving back to her alma mater through the largest donation ever granted to the university’s College of Science: $1.25 million for an endowed directorship.
An endowed faculty position allows Clemson to retain top talent, according to a news release.
As the first endowed faculty position at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the Emily Peek Wallace ’72 Endowed Directorship provides support for the school director and supports additional initiatives throughout the school.
“I wanted to do something to help the faculty,” Wallace said in the release. “Everybody has had to shift their teaching and learning methods due to COVID-19, and the faculty has additional challenges to make sure students are not getting behind and that they’re learning what they need to be learning. I wanted to provide encouragement and funding to help them, add additional facilities to help students stay current.”
The purpose of the endowment focuses on increasing student engagement and success, as well as enhancing the relevance of the curriculum for the next generation of mathematicians, statisticians and data scientists.
The support includes tutoring assistance for students who may be struggling academically or to help students who may have fallen behind due to unforeseen circumstances. Additionally, the funding will help establish business connections and internships for students who wish to enter the job force instead of going into academic research, and will make training with current statistical software and other resources available for students regardless of future tracks, according to the release.
“With gifts such as this one from Emily, our donors help position Clemson as a destination for the finest academic leaders to develop innovative curriculums benefitting our students and equipping them with the skills needed for what is to come,” Brian O’Rourke, vice president for development and alumni relations at Clemson, said in the release. “Our donors are investing in the future — not just in Clemson and our students, but also in the industries our students will influence. We can’t thank them enough for their assistance and generosity.”
Wallace was the first woman to serve as a top leader of the university’s WSBF radio station and was named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She was often the sole woman — or one of only two — in her technical courses. A first generation college graduate, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1971.
In 2014, she established the Emily Peek Wallace ’72 Scholarship Endowment for STEM, which provides financial assistance for underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to the release. This academic year, 25 students will benefit from the Wallace scholarships. In addition to the two endowments, she also serves on the Clemson University Foundation Board of Directors and as a founding member of the Order of the Oak.
Wallace and her husband Jack were among the first 100 employees to join the Statistical Analysis System Institute in 1981. Headquartered in Cary, N.C., SAS is a global software company, which has also provided support to Clemson through software.
Currently, she oversees a team of 50 people as the senior director of the Knowledge Management Center at SAS.
“I am so honored to have met such special people within the Clemson family, like Emily Wallace,” Cynthia Young, dean of the College of Science, said in the release. “She was and remains a pioneer at SAS, paved the way and created opportunity for so many, including our Clemson students. Under the leadership of the Emily Peek Wallace ’72 Director, our outstanding faculty and staff will honor her legacy with their new discoveries, innovation, and in how they are preparing the next generation of leading mathematicians, statisticians and data scientists.”
Nephron's Lou Kennedy making a big impact on industry see more
Courtesy of SC Manufacturing
Drug shortages have plagued the health care system for decades. Even prior to COVID-19, hospitals incurred more than $400 million in labor costs and alternative treatment options due to national generic drug shortages, especially for those administered via injection.
More important, research shows shortages lead to adverse patient outcomes – things like delaying critical procedures, rationing doses based on supply levels and prescribing suboptimal treatment plans with substitute drugs.
Manufacturing tops the list as the most common cause of shortages, pushing those in the pharmaceutical supply chain to look for new ways to increase productivity – and thanks to a partnership between Clemson University and Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a solution may be on the horizon.
Led by Dr. Yue “Sophie” Wang, the ambitious project combines robotics and medicine to ensure sterility, quality, safety and efficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The team worked in partnership with South Carolina-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation to develop a flexible, easy to use, open-source benchtop robot that can fill, cap and seal sterile syringes.
“Pharmaceutical collaborative robots is a new and quickly growing research area,” said Wang, who serves as the Warren H. Owen Duke Energy Associate Professor of Engineering at Clemson University. “By combining our expertise with unique applications in pharmaceutical manufacturing, we hope to benefit both patients and the industry through increased efficiency in syringe manufacturing.”
The project supports the Nephron 503B Outsourcing Facility, a cGMP manufacturer providing sterile, pre-filled medications to address persistent drug shortages in hospitals and medical facilities across America. Pre-filled syringes help control costs by minimizing drug overfill and minimizing microbial contamination. Without robotics, filling these syringes is a delicate, highly regulated process completed by specialized technicians under laminar airflow hoods in ISO classified clean rooms to keep their work environments sterile.
It can take up to five employees a day per hood to meet the incredible demand for pre-filled syringes at Nephron. Unlike humans, robots don’t get tired, offering advantages in quality control, production planning and compliance.
Technicians can then be re-deployed for higher value functions that let them improve their skills, experience and pay, said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy.
“Anything we can do to improve drug shortages, that’s just good for patients,” she added. “It’s a very big crisis, not just in the U.S. but globally as well.”
The next phase of the project is further development, starting with the completion of a purpose-built clean room on Clemson’s campus. Kennedy hopes to commercialize the benchtop system for use inside healthcare facilities across the country.
“Hospitals often have two or three pharmacists working the phones every day searching for the drugs they need,” said Kennedy. “You don’t go to school for eight years to spend your day on the phone looking for product.”
Partnering for change
Clemson and Nephron are at the forefront of a larger trend shaping pharmaceutical manufacturing today. The integration of automation, AI and robotics are catalyzing the industry, and rising demand paired with major market disruptions such as COVID-19 are only accelerating change. The pharmaceutical robotic systems market is expected to nearly double to $119.46 million from just five years ago, driven by innovations in packaging, inspection and lab work, according to one report.
Part of what has made the project successful is the complementary strengths Nephron and Clemson brought to the table. Wang needed an insider’s perspective on pharmaceutical manufacturing to understand the exact requirements and processes involved in sterile syringe production.
Based in West Columbia, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and one of the fastest-growing companies in South Carolina. The partnership was developed through External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Clemson University.
“As a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, Nephron is the perfect partner for specialized, high-impact research to improve health outcomes for patients,” said Angie Leidinger, Clemson’s vice president for External Affairs. “Thanks to our partners, our breakthrough research continues to build Clemson’s and South Carolina’s reputation for leadership in both advanced manufacturing and life sciences.”
In addition to Clemson’s world-class research talent, Nephron was also drawn to the University’s steady stream of talented graduates that could hit the ground running at their facilities.
“We’re a young company and want to play a role in developing all of this great talent we have around us,” said Kennedy. “I decided it was time to put game day feelings aside and look at where our talent was really coming from.”
Women taking the lead
Like most STEM industries, women continue to be a minority in the pharmaceutical manufacturing workforce, at 42.3 percent of total employment. If the partnership between Clemson and Nephron is any indication, that gap could be shrinking fast.
With Kennedy at the helm, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and boasts a 53 percent female workforce. Ratios like that are unheard of in our industry, she says. It’s only fitting that project leadership from the Clemson side is female.
Clemson is home to many groundbreaking women in the industry, including Martine LaBerge as chair of the Department of Bioengineering, Saara DeWalt as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Delphine Dean as the Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Professor, among many others. Dean is also a key researcher and first line of defense in the University’s response to the global pandemic.
“It’s so pleasant to see women thriving in STEM careers,” said Kennedy.
SCBIO innovation partner GCMI names new CEO see more
Sherry Farrugia has been selected by the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) board of directors as the organization’s permanent CEO, effective April 1, 2021. Farrugia had been serving as interim CEO for GCMI, a Georgia Tech affiliate, since September 2020.
“We are so pleased to congratulate Sherry as she joins GCMI in this permanent capacity,” said Chaouki T. Abdallah, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for Research. “She was a steadfast advocate, innovator, and leader in her time at Tech and I know she will bring that same dedication to the important, transformational work of GCMI.”
Farrugia came to GCMI from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Technology Center at Georgia Tech, where she served as chief operating and strategy officer for 10 years, focusing on accelerating innovation for pediatrics. During that time, Farrugia worked with GCMI on numerous projects. Recently, she played a key part in GCMI’s success supplying frontline healthcare workers with personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
“Sherry Farrugia is nationally recognized for her work in advancing translational medical research, and we are excited that she will continue with GCMI as permanent CEO,” said Bob Crutchfield, chair of the GCMI board of directors and CEO of TeleHealth Solution. “Her visionary leadership, strong community ties, and knowledge of the commercialization ecosystem and medical device strategy and development have been great assets to GCMI thus far and will be instrumental in our path forward.”
Recently, Farrugia was named to the board of directors for the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation for Research Development. She is currently an advisory board member of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, on the board of directors of the International Society of Pediatric Innovation, and a member of the Southeast Life Sciences Women@SLS advisory board.
“Sherry brings over 30 years’ experience in the healthcare innovation industry,” said Devesh Ranjan, Georgia Tech’s interim vice president for Interdisciplinary Research and Ring Family Chair and professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “Her knowledge and experience are invaluable, and I know she will serve the role well.”
In 2018, Farrugia received the Women in Technology Woman of the Year Award, and she was honored by Georgia Bio for three consecutive years for her work in supporting the life sciences.
“GCMI’s mission and history of working with startups, clinicians, and universities to bring innovative medical products to the world is perfectly aligned with my passion for supporting translational research in the healthcare space,” Farrugia said. “I am so pleased to accept the position as GCMI’s permanent CEO and to continue the important work to accelerate the development, testing, training, and commercialization of life-changing technologies.”
SCBIO, United Community Bank to sponsor development program see more
Furman University’s Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) will be presented virtually this year with two statewide community partners supporting the effort. United Community Bank will be the program’s presenting sponsor and SCBIO has signed on to be a presenting partner.
The WLI is a seven-week leadership development program open to emerging and established women leaders in South Carolina, with past participants from every corner and many industries of the Palmetto State. It is led by distinguished Furman faculty and expert facilitators from civic and corporate organizations who cover core competencies from team leadership and design thinking to negotiating and developing networks.
The program this year will comprise live, virtual sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST, beginning April 15 and ending June 1. The cost is $1,499 and registration is open now. For more information, or to nominate someone for participation, visit the WLI website.
“The Women’s Leadership Institute at Furman is a wonderful opportunity to network with other female leaders in the community, learn more about my own natural strengths and abilities, and discover how I can use my voice to be an advocate for change in our local community,” says Jessica McCoy, a 2020 WLI graduate.
“I would recommend this program to anyone who is actively seeking to make a difference in every area of their life. I promise you won’t regret a single second of it,” said McCoy, the business development manager for Brasfield and Gorrie, one of the country’s largest privately held construction companies.
“The Women’s Leadership Institute has a long history of helping women succeed in their chosen careers and in life,” said Elizabeth Davis, Furman University president. “We are excited to have two cornerstone organizations join us this year to help extend our leadership training and advance equality, equity and diversity in the workplace.”
Furman’s WLI began in 1998, and has helped more than 600 women from diverse sectors develop their leadership skills that are essential to advancing within their organizations.
“Having United Community Bank and SCBIO join as presenting sponsor and presenting partner, respectively, increases the breadth and depth of the program into South Carolina’s business community,” says Anthony Herrera, executive director of Furman’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“United Community Bank is committed to making a difference in our community and we believe that is achieved through sponsoring programs that support the development of those who serve others,” said Moryah Jackson, vice president of community development and engagement for United Community Bank. “We are excited to be this year’s presenting sponsor and provide women with a professional development opportunity that will help them go out and make the world a better place.”
“Furman’s Women’s Leadership Institute is among the premier programs in the Southeast devoted to promoting talent development, fostering invaluable connections and expanding new opportunities for current and emerging women leaders across the business ecosystem,” said Erin Ford, executive vice president and chief operating officer for SCBIO. “We are honored and enthusiastic supporters of the WLI program and mission, and look forward to being actively involved in this fantastic program.”
Ford and Sam Konduros, chief executive officer and president of SCBIO, will present during one session, and a panel from United Community Bank will close the program on June 1.
This week's South Carolina life sciences newsletter is hot off the press! see more
Enjoy this week's newsletter from SCBIO featuring updates on South Carolina's inaugural Women in Life Sciences initiatives... a report on MUSC's growing economic impact statewide... details on more Palmetto State organizations stepping up for the greater good... an update from EVP Erin Ford and much, much more... click here to read complete details!