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Week 36 – Sudden Change of Plans

Hope everyone is doing well and is safe and healthy. Before I get into this week’s update, I would like to take time to welcome a new addition to our team, Kirsten Harnden, who joined us this week. Kirsten had a previous short stint with us as a summer intern in 2018. During this internship, she was able to get involved in the early stages of our Takeda R&D program as well as work on other research projects. After her internship, Kirsten headed back to UMass Dartmouth and was selected to lead a team of bioengineers and a mechanical engineer to develop a prototype for their senior Capstone project. Due to the experience Kirsten gained at the company, we suggested that she look to develop a component for one of the devices she was working on for the Takeda project, a holding device for our cell chamber. Kirsten and her team did a great job advancing the prototype prior to her graduation in 2019. This program is still ongoing, with another group ready to continue to advance the prototype design this upcoming academic year. Kirsten left a good foundation to build upon. Kirsten accepted a position in a large company upon graduation, which continued to advance her skillset. We are excited to have her back with the team and look forward to her contributing as we advance the company into manufacturing.

The title of the blog sums up the theme of my week. When it seemed like I was moving forward in one area, I was pulled in a different direction. This blog is included in that change of plans. What I had prepared for this week’s blog is not this topic. You will likely see that next week, not barring any other changes. I am excited to share this with you. I was also working on revising a slide deck with several members of our team as well as with our outside consultants.

In keeping with this week’s theme, we are making a calculated sudden pivot to highlight different aspects of our technology. We also received word that the Department of Defense had released a new solicitation related to treating combat injuries with the caveat that the pre-proposal (application) was due today. Our collaborators at Worcester Polytechnic Institute decided to submit an application related to developing a new type of wound dressing for burns using plant leaves (yes, plant leaves like spinach that have been chemically treated) along with our electrospinning technology. On top of helping review this submission, I foolishly decided to also put together a pre-proposal focused on our drug-eluting NuSpun Vascular Graft technology to treat small arterial injuries in the legs, feet, kidneys and heart. I can honestly say I have not missed writing proposals, even though this one was fairly small. I think it is more of a time thing than it is the writing. Plus, I have been preparing a decent amount of slide decks so maybe I am just burned out from that. I am happy to say that both pre-proposals made it out the door. As Danny Glover said in the movie Lethal Weapon, “I’m getting too old for this s$%t!”

It was nice to have the long weekend to relax a little. During that time, I was able to think about different aspects of what we are doing on the research front. It is always fun to think about new ideas or ways to change a process. As soon as I got back in, I shared my thoughts with the group to get some feedback. Once I heard their thoughts, I went into the lab to put the plan into action. The downside of doing research is sometimes you won’t have an answer for your study for several days. If you are a person that wants instant gratification, this may not be the line of work for you. There are a few more areas to tackle (in research there is never a lack of things to evaluate). I also crossed over to the manufacturing side, making a few electrospun materials as well as cell culture insert plates. The research team continued to pound away in several areas, from making electrospun materials and cell chambers to continued assessment of our materials when exposed to various cells. On the manufacturing side, our team continues to make ground on developing a new electrospinning unit and mandrels as well as continuing to advance our quality management documents.

Continue to stay vigilant and keep social distancing, wear a mask where social distancing is not possible to protect yourself and those around you and frequently wash your hands. It is too easy to go backwards. I was glad to see a lot of people wearing masks over the long weekend. So different (in a positive way) than the July 4th weekend. Getting back to some sort of real normal depends on it. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that masks and social distancing have a positive effect on controlling the virus. Keep supporting your local businesses as they continue to work through these challenging times. Many of these businesses are nowhere near out of the woods yet and won’t be for a while.



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