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Greenville Business Magazine

“As local entrepreneurs, that’s our job — to make miracles happen”

May 19, 2020 11:03AM ● By David Dykes

Staff Report

In both Columbia and Greenville, Prisma Health’s Rapid Innovation Taskforce has partnered with local entrepreneurs to rapidly develop and manufacture large quantities of protective face shields for Prisma Health’s front-line healthcare workers, officials with the health company said.

Face shields, which are full-face visors worn by workers to help protect their faces from potentially infectious substances, was early-on identified by Prisma Health as a critical-needs manufacturing project to ensure its workers would continue to have access to the equipment regardless of national supply levels, the officials said.

 In Greenville, Jerry Chang, who is a rapid innovation taskforce member, teamed with the group to develop a prototype, test, manufacture and coordinate initial delivery, with the process taking only weeks. Chang is also husband to its Upstate chief medical officer, Dr. Catherine Chang.

 “As local entrepreneurs, that’s our job — to make miracles happen,” said Chang, the owner and managing partner of Samaritan Biologics. “I want to thank the generous community partners who donated their time and equipment to help keep our healthcare workers and others safe in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.” The face shields will be also be shared with first responders, nursing homes and other facilities as needed.

Partners in the Upstate face shield project also included Mitsubishi Polyester Film in Greer, Papers Cutters Inc. in Travelers Rest, American Foam & Fabric in Lyman and Roylco Industrial in Anderson. 

Students at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, meanwhile, assembled the face shields. The disposable plastic face shields were made at a significant cost savings because most of the work was donated or at reduced cost, Prisma Health officials said.

In Columbia, John Carrington is founder and CEO of Zverse, a local firm specializing in prototype design and 3D printing. Prisma Helath officials said his team worked with the health company's physicians to quickly develop a face shield designed for safety, comfort and a low-unit cost. 

In only two days the first prototype was developed and refined by in-house designers, while Zverse reached out to their U.S. manufacturing partners equipped for mass production, Prisma Health officials said. 

The key component is the headpiece designed to hold the clear disposable visor from ear-to-ear and may be repeatedly sterilized for reuse. Once Zverse’s 3D-printed prototype was approved, their manufacturing partners in South Carolina, North Carolina and Minnesota created injection molds capable of reproducing tens of thousands of units per day and quickly began production, the officials said.

“This project came to us with remarkable timing,” said Carrington. “Not only did it allow us to support a critical healthcare need in the Covid-19 crisis, we were able save and create new local jobs at a moment when we were expecting a severe business slowdown due to the pandemic. Our team knew scared frontline workers, family and friends around the country who could benefit from this and it gave us something to rally around.”

Since launching this year, the Prisma Health Rapid Innovation Taskforce has partnered with academic and business partners to quickly develop solutions to the urgent needs created by the pandemic. 

Primsa Health officials said early successes include innovative manufacturing such as the face shields, therapies such as convalescent serum and even donation drives with UofSC School of Medicine Greenville to help supply community partners with protective gear and cleaning supplies.

 “It’s incredible to see how our entire community stood up to help us,” said Dr. John Kudlak, a Prisma Health pulmonologist and task force member. “By working closely with local industry Prisma Health was able to source design and materials for face shields to protect our frontline healthcare workers and also our community partners.”

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,984 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually.