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Week 17- First Masks Ready to Roll...

Hope all is well and that everyone is staying safe. I know I have been leading with this statement in my blogs over the past several weeks. I haven’t just left that statement in there as a generic greeting. This is one of the first things that I think about each day. From our family to team members to friends and acquaintances, you are always in my thoughts. This is such a challenging virus, one that will change our lives for the foreseeable future. The discussion about everything heading back to normal is not based in reality. This pandemic will change many areas, from the work front to your home to how we interact with people. Some will be tough changes to implement like physical contact such as shaking hands. I learn so much from this simple gesture but that will likely be a thing of the past. Makes me sad to think about it. This time will force us to develop new ways of functioning. We are a tough bunch and have been adapting for centuries so we can do it. I have a lot of faith.

I am happy to report that the first couple of masks have been produced and are being handed out today. Any masks that we produce will be donated to those who need them. More are on the way. We’ll start within our sphere of people who need them and will work outwards by word of mouth. As I mentioned, the amounts we will be producing will not be anywhere near the levels of 3M. The first two masks, one of which is shown, is being

provided to a senior couple who need to have a mask to handle weekly activities. They are currently using cloth masks that can fall down when they are doing simple tasks. Our masks are all handmade, from the electrospun inner membrane and ultrasonic welding of the components to attaching the ear loop pieces. Some of the masks will have a face shield to provide protection to those that will come in close contact with people and others will just be the face mask for more simple tasks.

It has taken time to get to this point. I wanted to make sure that we did as much testing as possible. We are not mask producers and had not planned to head into making these devices prior to the virus striking. We have tried to cover all bases, from little things like adding two ear loops to adjust for head size to bigger things like breathability testing. It was

very helpful to get feedback from my daughter Tarryn, who did a wear test and provided suggestions to design. We are hopeful that this mask will be beneficial to the people who wear it. We are happy that we may be able to play a very small part.

One thing that would have been easy to do is to slap a few things together and put out something that likely could work. A sense of urgency should not supersede the need to be as safe as possible. I think we’ve seen a few areas where there have been suggestions to try different treatments that have no proven success with the “hopes” of eliminating this virus. The thought is we have nothing to lose, but in reality, the cure could harm/kill you more than the virus. Even today, I am seeing our political leaders talking about the idea of infusing a disinfectant or using an internal UV light. There is a reason that Lysol and those types of products are used as a spray and not a mouth wash or medicine. The reason I bring this up is that only real solutions should be tested (like an antiviral drug) and those solutions should be provided by scientists and medical professionals. I hope they take the time we did to make sure that all treatments evaluated could be helpful and not harmful. With everything there is risk, but the risk should not exceed the benefit.

We also continue to develop our cell culture insert plates for potential use to grow small airway cells. Similar to the masks, we want to make sure we are covering all areas of the development process so we can provide the best diagnostic tool. We continue our discussions with our collaborators at the National Institutes of Health to provide them potential tools that they may need. There likely will be other companies that will be able to use this technology. Those discussions continue to proceed even during this time. We have also continued to work with our collaborators at Takeda. If you missed our social media announcement, Dr. Vincent Ling presented results from our research collaboration at a virtual meeting ( Vincent did an outstanding job on this presentation and I hope you take the time to view it. We are proud of the progress we made on this collaborative research program over the past three years. We are currently in discussions with Takeda to expand these studies and apply this technology to other areas within Takeda.

Our team continues to work hard despite the challenges that the virus brings. We all know that what we do can make a difference. We continue to conduct business focused on our team’s health. That has become the new norm. While it is challenging, we are making it work and could not be prouder of the team.

Please stay safe, keep social distancing and support your local businesses as safely as possible! We are all in this together and we’ll get through this.



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