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Week 20 – Riding the Rollercoaster

Hope everyone is doing well and is safe and healthy. I know that things feel all twisted and upside down, similar to riding a rollercoaster. There are twists and turns at many points, loops that will twist you all around and times when there is a moment of calm which suddenly accelerates into chaos. Eventually, the ride slows and comes to an end. Even after the ride, you are still left feeling queasy and uneasy. This is the typical feeling of a small business owner. Sometimes I have to ask why we decided to get on this ride in the first place. We are fortunate to be able to continue to hang on and endure the continuous pounding of the hills and cork screw twists. We are trying to plan for the rest of the ride although the remainder of the ride is located in a dark tunnel. I am sure our fellow business owners feel the same, with some not sure if they can endure the ride.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a rollercoaster person by any stretch of the imagination. I am more of a Disney World “It’s A Small World” ride kind of person. Nice and easy and consistent. No adrenaline rush required for me. So why did we undertake this journey knowing that this would be the ride we get? Sometimes Tina and I wonder aloud why we did this. One thing we can say when we reflect is that it is about the mission of trying to make a difference. I am sure that most people who start a business feel the same way. That is why it is hard to see so many business owners who are losing their businesses through no fault of the their own. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into setting up a business, keeping it going and trying to expand it all while producing something you believe will help people is not easy to quantify.

Being a research and development company, we get to double our fun on the “ride” since both areas have a level of uncertainty and one area affects the other. We are continuing to advance our work for the National Institutes of Health focused on the cell culture plates. We have made unbelievable progress in a relatively short period of time. We have produced our first plates with our Bio-Spun™ materials, expanded quality controls for the plates to make

sure they are made the same way each time, evaluated how different cells grow on the materials, documented the full process and have begun to make a designated electrospinning unit. We have even begun to apply other Bio-Spun™ materials onto these plates. All good stuff! This success, however, has not come without it share of setbacks. Nothing that cannot or will not be solved but nonetheless makes the “ride” more challenging. It is frustrating when these setbacks are not created by you or what you are doing, but rather from outside forces like a vendor changing their process and not providing this information. You would be amazed at how a “little” change can affect so many things. While it makes the “ride” interesting, I could do without the twists and turns. Even on the business front, discussions with potential partners and expansion of the technology into other areas, which started as a nice smooth trajectory, have begun to hit the twists and turns. I am hopeful that both are going to straighten out, but such is life on the rollercoaster.

We continue to make progress on many other fronts, from continuing to produce masks (more will be produced this week) and evaluating our vascular graft in a benchtop study that simulates blood flow to continuing to assess making electrospun suture material. On the mask front, I am beginning to rethink that we should be making the face mask as a standard part of the mask, especially for areas where not everyone is wearing a mask. I have been concerned about eye entry of the virus, which would be possible in areas where all people are not wearing masks in tight quarters. The rollercoaster ride is always wilder and more unnerving when developing new technologies. This is especially not easy for younger researchers who are not used to being on this type of ride. My goal is to always reassure them that this is a necessary part of development and you must get through the tough areas to get to the smooth ones. We are also working to expand the technologies developed with Takeda into other areas. This is another area that tends to be the most jarring on the ride. Any time you work with any large company, the peaks and twists are more pronounced and stomach turning. The goal is to not get too high or low at any point of the ride and to wait until some sense of a smoother ride occurs (hopefully).

It is going to take us a while to get to a new sense of “normal” both on a personal and business level during this pandemic. While we don’t like being on the rollercoaster, the option of leaving the ride is less appealing. Please stay safe, keep social distancing, wear a mask where social distancing is not possible to protect yourself and those around you 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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