Week 18 – Keep Moving Upstream
Hope everyone is doing well and is safe and healthy. We continue to be one of the fortunate businesses that is still surviving in these trying times. There is nothing normal about what we are dealing with. I continue to hear from different vendors that business is significantly down, with numbers ranging from 50% - 80%. Some companies are reducing workforces or fully laying off their staff. It is really hard to understand how gut-wrenching these decisions are unless you’ve been in their shoes. Tina and I remember this all too well. Something many of you probably didn’t know. Over 4 years ago, we were at the point of having to make the decision to close the business. It was something that kept me up at night. Not many things do. A business is an extension of you. Your team’s respective livelihoods rest on your shoulders. You do not want to let anyone down. We were fortunate (we would call it divine intervention) to have run into someone that would alter that destiny.
I do not think large companies face the same dilemma. Upper management typically does not work as close with many members of the company so people become more numbers than a real people. I see companies who have revenue in the billions in the first quarter reducing people’s income so that they can reduce their potential future short fall. It always goes back to the question how much is enough. If shareholders receive no dividends for one or two quarters, wouldn’t that be worth keeping their work force intact? I think so. When I see all of the issues going on, it just tears me up. I still have the list in my desk drawer of all the areas I needed to cover to close our business. It is something that I will never forget and if the time comes that we have to make that decision, it will be painful. One thing we business owners have in common is that we will fight with every breath in our body.
We continue to move forward despite all of the strong currents that we are facing. It reminds me of when Tina and me visit one of our favorite spots in Plymouth, the herring run. These herring push upstream against all odds to spawn and then turn right back around to head back out to the ocean facing the danger all over again. We know that the path forward for us is not going to be easy nor smooth, but we will push forward like that little herring. That will require us to pursue every opportunity possible. Work even harder while still maintaining the new business norm. It will require us to continue to expand our abilities, all while being financially conscientious. I keep touting how proud I am of our team. We could not accomplish any of this without them. They are our extended family and like a typical family, we are all working toward a common goal.
As you know and have read about in our weekly blogs, our Bio-Spun™ materials have broad application, including applications related to COVID-19. At this point, it is all hands-on deck. There are many needs to tackle this virus, from simple things like swabs and solutions to more complex areas such as developing benchtop models to evaluate the mechanism of how the virus affects airway tissue and screening drugs. The latter is an area where we believe we can help as we’ve previously mentioned. This week, we continued to make progress on the cell culture insert plates. Why this is important is that it will allow us to grow airway tissue (96 small test chambers at one time) that we will be able to directly see through a microscope in real time. This tool, combined with other experimental techniques, may allow scientists to see how the virus interacts with these cells. It may also allow the scientists to see how a drug candidate may or may not affect the virus. This work will advance faster with various partnerships, which we are currently pursuing. We continue our discussions with our collaborators at the National Institutes of Health and plate manufacturers. Hopefully, we’ll have some news to share on these discussions in the next few weeks.
We made more of our masks this week, distributing several out to people who need them. We will continue to make these over the next several weeks and months. We also continue to look for mask components to make sure we have enough supplies to make the masks. We keep testing the mask to understand as much as we can about the properties of the mask. It is a good feeling to be able to help people out. As I mentioned, we are not aiming to become a mask producer. We are looking to make a small difference using our technology. For those of you who have received a mask and either have questions or want to learn more, we are adding some information under the Advanced Technologies tab on our website.
Next week, we’ll look to take a break from COVID-19 and talk about our work being conducted with Takeda. 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.