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Columbia Business Monthly

CEO UPDATE: On the Front Lines of Battling Coronavirus

Mar 24, 2020 11:41AM ● By David Dykes

By Sam Konduros, President & CEO, SCBIO

While neither an esteemed scientist nor innovative clinician who helps propel our global industry, I was recently interviewed about the impact that the coronavirus is having on our state and country in my role as an industry voice and chief storyteller for 650-plus life sciences companies and entities  that proudly call the Palmetto State home.

And there are incredibly meaningful and encouraging stories to share in the midst of this very real public health crisis – regarding SC companies and institutions that will positively impact patients across the state and nation with innovative and creative approaches they are actively, and very rapidly, undertaking.  

Just a few exemplary SC examples include:

·         MUSC Health was the first in the nation to uniquely provide both direct, timely, and online access to coronavirus screening via their virtual care platform coupled with a drive-through specimen collection site for patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure.  This was done in partnership with the developers (newest SCBIO Member, Trademark Properties) of the dramatically redeveloped Citadel Mall Epic Center, which is now home to MUSC Health’s West Ashley Medical Pavilion – as they worked closely to secure immediate approvals for the location of the collection site in the mall parking lot. If you or someone you know needs to be screened, log on to www.musc.care and use COVID19 as the promo code. This is FREE for all South Carolinians. 

·         Nephron Pharmaceuticals, a major national supplier of respiratory therapy medications badly needed by patients suffering from COVID-19, is aggressively ramping up its ability to increase production of 90 million sterile doses per month of targeted drug therapies with an additional 32 million doses, as they work with the FDA to have three new aseptic filling lines approved and brought online quickly to meet skyrocketing demands they are experiencing.  

·         Vikor Scientific has specifically dedicated 2,000 square feet of its brand new 22,000-square-foot headquarters and CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited lab facilities at WestEdge for COVID-19 testing as soon as approval is received from the FDA.  They are in fact preparing 100,000 test kits to be available for shipment to customers as soon as Wednesday of this week – and are working closely with the FDA for continued guidance on expediting the approval process.

 

On the national front, there are also encouraging stories emerging, including the most rapid launch of a possible new vaccine on record.  

Moderna has begun its first coronavirus vaccine trial in Washington State (the nation’s worst hot spot at present) with volunteers at Kaiser Permanente Research Institute in Seattle.  Over the next two months, volunteers ages 18-55 will get two doses of the trial vaccine (known as mRNA-1273). Dr. Anthony Fauci of the national Coronavirus Task Force has confirmed that this 65-day development is the fastest ever accomplished for a new vaccine of this magnitude.  And while widespread utilization of a newly approved vaccine is still likely 12-18 months away, gratefully progress is on track to achieve that.  Also noteworthy are other vaccines and targeted therapies concurrently in the pipeline, involving companies such as Pfizer, Regeneron and Sanofi.

Finally, on a very personal note, each of us and our extended families are being dramatically impacted by this global pandemic and are encouraged to do our parts in mitigating the spread of this fearsome and highly contagious virus.  After an extended battle with metastatic lung cancer, my dad peacefully passed away recently and, regrettably, his funeral will have to be limited to a private family graveside service (with a future memorial service to be scheduled once the health crisis has subsided).  In an interesting juxtaposition of life and death, my nephew’s wedding this weekend has been compressed to a small family rehearsal dinner combined with a quiet ceremony in conjunction with the dinner.  I’m certain that there will be a multitude of other similar stories from most of you regarding how we grapple and deal with this unprecedented event with no clear endpoint at present.

While all of this will ultimately be in our “rear view mirrors” at some point in the future through the power and innovation of our industry, our researchers, and our heroic healthcare providers, life and business as we know it will have to be dramatically different in the weeks – and possibly months – ahead.  Expect a more virtual experience with SCBIO for the near future and look to hear from us more often via electronic means ranging from e-blasts to social media efforts to increased website postings to webinars.  I am fully confident that all of our life and health sciences companies and leaders will respond valiantly, and that this will bring out the best in us – with creative and even transformative solutions and strategies that will enable us to maintain momentum in our vital missions.  And we will learn a great deal and grow through this challenging process – as our strength is truly forged in fire. 

We will continue to update you on various developments around COVID-19 and encourage all of you to share your stories of hope and progress as we collectively battle this formidable foe.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our SCBIO team for any reason, and we are more grateful than ever for all of you.

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