As the government, public, and private sectors work to address the many serious problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, several Ben Franklin clients are working directly and indirectly in the efforts. Ben Franklin Technology Partners works not only to create highly paid, sustainable jobs, but also to provide innovative solutions to improve the human condition.
Adhezion Biomedical manufactures SecurePortIV, an IV catheter securement adhesive that is being used to secure “long-line” catheters on COVID-19 patients who are receiving medication via intravenous (IV) infusion. The long-line catheters allow the healthcare professional to administer and manage the medication without additional direct exposure to the patient. SecurePort securely holds the catheter in place, sealing the IV port and preventing microbes from entering the site. In addition, Adhezion CEO Pete Molinaro is an advisor to the Science Research Institute (SRI), one of the key drivers of the Berks PPE Resource Network (see Network description below), and Adhezion has provided financial support to the Network. Adhezion Biomedical is a privately-held medical device company engaged in the development, manufacturing, and commercialization of highly-differentiated, proprietary, cyanoacrylate-based adhesive.
American Paper Bag, LLC, www.americanpaperbag.com, Sugar Notch
A number of cities have banned plastic bags, and bags are now in even higher demand for food deliveries and pickups during the pandemic. American Paper Bag is quickly becoming the premier US-based paper bag manufacturer by producing a fully customizable, more environmentally acceptable (“greener”) paper bag that reduces operational costs. American Paper Bag offers design features that no other American manufacturer can offer, including a best-in-class tamper-evident seal strip. The US bag market is approximately 100 billion bags annually, with nearly 50% imported from China. The environmental, political, economic, and public health climates have put pressure on consumers to avoid plastic bags and Chinese imports.
Supplying key sectors in the fight against COVID-19 is vital. American Polarizers manufactures polarized and non-polarized optical products that are used for scientific and medical instrumentation. The company also produces for aerospace, electronics, photographic, and animated display industries, which contribute to important government security efforts. American Polarizers is currently donating industrial grade plastic for face shields that are being produced by the Berks PPE Resource Network (see Network description below).
Center-city Allentown-based Applied Separations is providing clean suits that have been baked in the company furnace, for re-use by first responders, paramedics, and others who are on the front lines fighting COVID-19. Applied Separations is providing approximately 40 or 50 a day, free of charge. The suits are baked to 110 degrees Celsius, far hotter than the kill temperature for COVID-19, but the company cannot certify the suits’ sterility. Applied Separations produces DNA clinical kits in ultra clean cleanrooms, builds supercritical fluid (SCF) systems, develops emerging SCF markets, and supplies laboratory equipment to companies all over the world.
Berks PPE Resource Network, Greater Reading
Several organizations and institutions have partnered to create the Berks PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Network, which is based at the Goggleworks Center for the Arts, Reading. The network combines the efforts of many organizations and individuals to create highly-sought-after face shields, part of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that helps in the fight against COVID-19. The shields are being 3D printed at the Cross Trainer Mixed Reality studios inside the GoggleWorks as well as through the Penn State Berks LaunchBox. The effort is being led by the Science Research Institute at Albright College and the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. The partnership also includes Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Cross Trainer Mixed Reality, the Hamburg Area School District, Kutztown University, and Reading Area Community College. Distribution of the shields has started in the community. Nursing homes and police departments are among the first recipients. The Berks Alliance and the Berks County Community Foundation are providing funding and donations.
Lehigh Valley medical device manufacturer B. Braun Medical Inc. has received emergency US Food and Drug Administration approval to modify its medical pumps with nebulizers to treat patients with the coronavirus. The modification also helps limit medical staff exposures to patients with COVID-19. Via: The Morning Call
ConnexiCore is growing an elite national network of licensed remote drone pilots, which will allow clients to engage in no-touch data collection, particularly helpful during the need for social distancing during the pandemic. Using its exclusive cloud-based Software-as-a-Service flight management and analysis platform, ConnexiCore’s turnkey approach manages the entire process, from aerial telepresence and data collection, to image and video analysis, to extracting insights from that data, to delivering measurable actionable tasks to support decision making for industry. Clients leverage drone-based aerial data to create efficiencies that save time and money.
Ongoing recycling and waste removal during the pandemic is key for public and environmental health. Cougle’s Recycling’s team is continuing operations, supporting life-sustaining clients and manufacturers. The firm appreciates an increased recycling vigilance from customers and residents at this time to keep its team and the environment safe.
Game Face Grooming manufactures a proprietary product line of wipes, including antibacterial Warrior Wipe, which kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria. The product line is comprised of four extra-large-sized wipes, targeted to men who are seeking skincare products that are simple to use. The wipes are fully biodegradable/compostable, have 98.5% natural ingredients, and are made in the U.S. Demand for Game Face’s wipes has been growing due to the need for immediate hygiene and sanitizing solutions. The company will be donating 500 packages of wipes to Street 2 Feet, an organization that is assisting the local homeless community.
Heyco Metals is operating as an essential business because of its work supplying the medical device market. The company is a precision mill that produces copper and copper alloy coil and stainless steel strip to exacting specifications for use in a wide variety of critical components including ventilators and testing products.
Pending US FDA Emergency Use Authorization approval, LifeAire Systems will introduce a portable, rapid, chemical-free decontamination unit for N95 masks. The Aire~PPE™ Decontamination Unit is designed to kill COVID-19 and all other bacteria, viruses, and fungi on the surface and within the layers of the mask. It is capable of disinfecting more than 10,000 masks per day per unit with no infectious waste generated. Treated masks are ready for safe and immediate use in fewer than 3 minutes and can be safely decontaminated up to 100 times. With an N95 cost savings up to $1.5M/month/unit, the unit investment can return in less than one day.
In additon, LifeAire has developed proprietary and revolutionary in-duct air purification systems that remove airborne pathogens, including COVID-19. The systems complement surface decontamination protocols with a 100% kill/disinfection rate for airborne COVID-19 in just one pass through the system. LifeAire’s technology has received 26 issued US and international patents.
Disinfectants are a crucial part of the fight against COVID-19. Reading-based Misco Products manufactures liquid cleaning and maintenance solutions for healthcare, institutional, food service, and industrial markets. In response to exploding current demand due to the pandemic, Misco has added multiple manufacturing lines and dramatically increased production volume for the critical disinfectants needed to fight this virus.
Public water utilities use daily water tests to help keep their treatment plants running properly. Water testing is an essential service during the pandemic. M.J. Reider is a private contract laboratory that provides analytic testing support to public water distribution systems. The firm is continuing essential testing services for nearly 14% of Pennsylvania’s population.
OraSure Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSUR), was awarded a $710,310 federal contract to develop a COVID-19 antigen rapid in-home self-test that uses oral fluid samples. This support will enable OraSure to file for FDA Emergency Use Authorization allowing for an in-home self-test to debut into the U.S. market. Built on OraSure’s OraQuick® platform, the rapid test would allow for in-home, saliva-based, self-testing by lay users as well as by medical professionals. OraSure’s portable rapid test platform provides results in 20 minutes.
To accommodate customers while observing social distancing, and to maintain a revenue stream during the pandemic, restaurants are using online ordering systems to support take-out food orders. Precision POS provides advanced tablet point-of-sale and on-line ordering technology for the restaurant industry and related food and beverage businesses. To support increased need during the pandemic, Precision POS is currently offering 60 days of free online ordering with no set-up or implementation fees, available at http://FREEOlo.net.
ProtoCAM is working with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by developing, producing, and testing 3D-printed biocompatible medical masks featuring a replaceable biosoluble filter material with a MERV 14 rating. The goal for the masks is to develop a reusable, sterilizable protection device that can be cleaned and utilized multiple times. ProtoCAM is also working to supply testing swabs and face shields to LVHN. ProtoCAM provides advanced additive manufacturing and rapid industrial 3D prototyping services for defense, aerospace, automotive, medical, architecture, consumer goods, and other markets.
Production Systems Automation (PSA) manufactures a large oven that kills bed bugs. PSA is validating the oven, dubbed the Temperature Controlled Disinfection Unit, as a method to heat hospital and healthcare facility linens and masks to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the 132.6 degrees required to kill COVID-19. The oven is able to disinfect with a faster turnaround than other methods and is currently being tested in a Veterans Affairs hospital in Arkansas. In addition, in an effort to facilitate the safe re-use of PPE and other healthcare “Soft Goods,” PSA has developed and is offering a medical PPE sanitization unit. The units safely and effectively sanitize “Soft Goods” such as N95 masks, medical garments, gloves, and medical caps and gowns. PSA is a designer and contract manufacturer of specialized automated equipment. The company has machining and fabrication capabilities as well as innovative design and engineering resources that allow it to respond to clients’ needs for unique equipment in various industries.
Sealstrip Corporation continues to provide its easy and flexible packaging solutions for the food manufacturing industry, which is an essential product during the pandemic. Sealstrip designs and manufactures easy-open and easy-reseal systems for flexible packaging, pressure-sensitive tapes, and related products.
Disposable paper goods such as toilet paper and paper towels were among the first items purchased in bulk early in the pandemic, and nationwide shortages of these home essentials persist. Select Products Holdings manufactures only four products: paper towels, napkins, facial tissue, and bathroom tissue. The company’s new 160,000-square-foot building integrates patented paper converting machinery, allowing the company to efficiently produce virgin and recycled paper into primarily private label for regional grocery stores, drug stores, and other at-home markets. Select Products Holdings seeks to hire employees to accommodate high demand, which provides opportunities for individuals recently released from other companies due to the pandemic.
The use of telemedicine for healthcare during the pandemic has been pivotal to protect patients and healthcare staff, and to reduce the spread of the virus. Signallamp Health’s remote clinical services platform supports healthcare providers by triaging and assessing ill patients, including those affected by COVID-19, as well as patients with other conditions. Signallamp’s services are remote, engaging nurses and other clinical staff by telephone, text monitoring system, video conference, and/or other telehealth and telemedicine methods. The company’s model is plug-and-play, working alongside existing Electronic Medical Records. It does not require expensive and time-consuming integrations, so it can be put to work immediately. Trusted by a growing number of provider organizations in 10 states, Signallamp allows doctors to provide a value-added service to a larger number of patients and to achieve better health outcomes for patients.
While maintaining physical health is a priority during this pandemic, its effects on individuals’ mental health are significant as well. Studio BE Mindfulness provides customized online, self-led, scientifically backed mindfulness techniques to help reduce stress, improve interpersonal communications, and enhance resilience. These methods will help employees remain peaceful and productive during the crisis and holistically recover from the anxiety afterwards. Studio BE currently offers an eight-week remote mindfulness training program to cultivate resilience and steadiness amidst global uncertainty.
Suburban Testing Labs continues to operate to protect public health and preserve the environment as a full-service environmental testing laboratory that specializes in the analysis of drinking water, ground water, wastewater, soil, and solid materials. The company’s laboratory analysts, field scientists, and technical staff are fully operational. According to the Water Environment Federation, there is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus survives the disinfection process for drinking water and wastewater. At this time, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. The company is working to help protect staff and the community by following social distancing practices, requiring face masks, staggering shifts, and having as many staff working remotely as possible. The company has also been using its 3D printer to produce face shields to donate to the Berks PPE Resource Network (see Network description above).
Having information on the spread of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable people in our communities, such as the elderly, helps authorities move resources to optimize healthcare services. Unison’s technology can track the spread of infection using an app and telephonic solution among the nearly 2,000-homecare agencies in Pennsylvania. The technology can survey homecare workers each day for signs of COVID-19. As caregivers interact with in-home patients, the app can track patient contacts and report on the spread of the contagion. This data allows early intervention to test and treat our most vulnerable populations, improving the chances of positive outcomes, slowing the spread of the virus, and reducing the burden on hospitals.
US Specialty Formulations (USSF) manufactures sterile injectable pharmaceuticals used by healthcare providers or in new drug or vaccine clinical trials. Millions of Americans require specialized and custom-manufactured drugs, and the current infrastructure is insufficient to support their therapies. These specially prepared drugs are U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications and are provided globally. USSF, in conjunction with Vaxform, LLC, another Ben Franklin TechVentures resident company, is currently preparing pre-clinical materials for use in a novel SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine.
Personal protective face shields are vital for healthcare workers and others in the fight against COVID-19. Verde Mantis, manufacturer of the Mantis 3D Printer, is producing the face shields in volume, as well as sharing its production file with other companies to enable volunteers in the Berks, Lehigh Valley, and Monroe Personal Protective Equipment resource networks. Verde Mantis is also working with engineers at Ben Franklin client Carpenter Technology and Cross Trainer Learning to develop a new face shield headband model that fits individuals with larger heads.
As an electronics manufacturer, WORLD is contacting its medical-related customers to determine how it can help support their operations and expediting any COVID-19 related products.