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Week 13 – Any Little Bit Helps!

Hope you are all doing well. It is unbelievable what has transpired in a week’s time. We have more people being infected and hospitalized with this virus across the United States. Our state, like many others, has issued a stay at home order for non-essential companies which has resulted in even more businesses closures. It is the right move to prevent the spread of the disease, but is so hard to watch so many people affected by the closures. I have been so impressed by the leadership that Governor Baker and governors across the United States have shown in these trying times. This is not a about political affiliation. These men and women along with their teams have been laser-focused on trying to help us to the best of their abilities which is admirable. They are fighting an uphill battle, are unarmed and are undermanned in this fight. They are pulling out all stops, trying to think outside the box to come up with solutions to slow the spread of the virus.

One area that makes me furious is to see what our healthcare professionals are having to deal with. We are learning first hand that they are ill-equipped to fight this virus. They lack personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving equipment for patients. All across the country, we are hearing about shortages and how they are having to re-use their PPE. It is so dire that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently approved the use of head scarfs (freaking head scarfs) in the event of an emergency. How could this happen in the richest country in the world? Many people are thinking this is an exaggeration and is being blown out of proportion. THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

Their only concern should be treating patients, not having to figure out if they have enough PPE or if they need to decontaminate existing gear. The idea of possibly needing to fashion their own head scarfs to protect themselves because the CDC knows that there is a mask shortage is crazy. The rationale for this is that they need the nurses to keep treating patients. This should not be happening in this country! These brave and selfless people are treating patients already rationalizing in their minds that there is a good chance they are going to get the virus but still do their job. As a father of an ICU nurse, this is not acceptable and I am angry that incompetence at so many levels is putting my daughter and so many others like her in harm's way. I am upset that Tina and I cannot hug or even visit with our daughter because she is worried about transmitting the virus to us. I equate this to asking our brave soldiers to drop their weapons, put on some used vests and go fight a war. We are so in debt to her and her “brothers and sisters in arms.” We need to be better than this!

I began to think what could we do to as a company to make a difference. Is there anything we currently do that could help in the fight against this silent menace? Even a small amount? As you know, we are working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop cell culture insert plates to grow retinal tissue in an effort to screen for potential drugs. We reached out to the investigators we are working with at the NIH to see if they have begun to think about switching gears to assess cells that the coronavirus attacks and to see if the diagnostic plates we are producing can help in this fight. As one of the world’s leading scientific agencies, these investigators were already formulating a plan to assist in this fight. Our cell culture insert chambers are being included in their plan. While it will take some work to qualify our new cell culture plates, the properties that our materials provide may be ideal for growing these cells. It would be great to help in some small way. This is forcing us to pick up the development process so we can get these plates into their hands to test.

What else could we do? Can we help on the PPE front, even in some small way? Our electrospun materials are made of small fibers that are even thinner than those used in face masks. We can also include some agents in the fibers that can disable virus coming into contact with the surface. Based on these positive attributes, we have begun the process of developing some mask materials that may be able to be used to provide a layer of protection. These would be more filtering than a head scarf or masks made from cloth. We are not a mask manufacturer like 3M where we can make hundreds of thousands of masks, but we may be able to help to provide a small layer of protection for a small group of medical professionals. It is an area completely out of our area of expertise, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We need to think outside the box. We will provide an update on both areas in the weeks to come. I am hopeful we can make progress on both fronts. Our team is passionate about trying to make a difference and are working as hard as possible while trying to be safe.

Please stay safe and healthy. Continue to listen to CDC guidance by practicing social distancing, washing your hands and staying at home when you can. Support your local restaurants and businesses as much as possible by purchasing take-out and using curbside purchasing, respectively. Think outside the box about what you can do. You would be surprised at how something small can be something big to others. Any little bit helps!



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