The new coronavirus has disrupted daily life and closed large sectors of the economy. But that hasn’t stopped innovators, businesses, employees, and researchers in Tennessee. Whether in science and technology, healthcare and manufacturing, or transportation and logistics, Tennessee businesses across the spectrum have stepped up in major ways to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many Tennessee businesses have pivoted their day-to-day operations to support efforts to fight COVID-19. Across the state, companies have been pushing hand sanitizer to meet growing demand. Some have used their manufacturing expertise to develop personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders.
Others have leveraged their position as world-class leaders in their fields, deploying the full force of their resources to fight COVID-19. Here in the Volunteer State, the Tennesseans are harnessing the world’s fastest supercomputer to identify potential drug treatments, scale up supply chain networks to transport massive amounts of personal protective equipment, and develop tests for vital antibodies.
Development of solutions
COVID-19 has disrupted the economy, put many people out of work and created enormous uncertainty. But Tennessee’s agile and resourceful response demonstrates the resilience of its residents and the strength of its workforce. As the home of some of the nation’s healthcare providers and research institutes, Tennessee is uniquely positioned to develop solutions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
In recent months, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have applied their expertise in advanced computing and manufacturing to identify solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers used ORNL’s Summit, the world’s powerful supercomputer, to better understand the structure of the virus and help scientists develop targeted therapies and vaccines. In March, ORNL identified drug compounds that might warrant further research, all with the promise of helping to develop essential treatments against the new coronavirus.
ORNL has also used its state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities to explore ways to accelerate the production of essential personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The lab has designed reusable masks and face shields.
“I could not be more proud of our staff who have come together to offer their scientific and technical expertise to deal with this international pandemic,” said ORNL director Thomas Zacharia. “It is in times of crisis that we have the greatest opportunity to distinguish ourselves in the service of the nation. This is our heritage at Oak Ridge; that’s who we are.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has partnered with academic, government and business partners to develop antibody-based treatments to protect those exposed to COVID-19. Vanderbilt anticipates begin human clinical trials this summer.
In the private sector, Nashville-based Webb Diagnostic Technologies brought its own antibody test to market end of April. According to company officials, the tests can detect the presence of COVID-19 with an accuracy of up to 99%. In Memphis, American Esoteric Laboratories began processing antibody tests in mid-April to see if recovered COVID-19 patients have developed antibodies that can give them immunity. The laboratory has the capacity to analyze 3,000 samples per day.
As Tennessee’s leading medical and research centers focus their resources on fighting the novel coronavirus, businesses across the state have shifted operations to meet growing demand for personal protective equipment and other supplies. essential.
Nashville’s SmileDirectClub has dedicated portions of its 3D printing facility to manufacturing thousands of medical-grade face shields and other personal protective equipment. The company delivered over 35,000 face shields for healthcare professionals and other essential workers.
Amid a growing need for ventilators, a Tennessee company, Enexor BioEnergy, put its best engineers to work developing emergency ventilators for field hospitals around the world. In less than a month, the company designed a new fan specifically for this task. The company plans to initially produce up to 200 units per day.
In Camden, Tennessee, Carhartt has moved its operations to produce masks and gowns. “It’s really natural for us in this time of need to serve and protect a different group of workers right now, a group of workers who desperately need the right PPE,” said William Hardy, senior vice president of the Carhartt supply chain. . “Now is the time for us as a generation to really help those in need. “
Along with these measures, Jack Daniel’s and other Tennessee distilleries have adjusted their production lines to deal with the massive shortage of hand sanitizers and cleaning products.
For its part, Memphis-based FedEx Corp. worked with the federal government to expedite international shipping of PPE and other essential supplies to COVID-19 relief efforts. This includes transporting hundreds of thousands of protective suits, millions of face masks and other supplies. FedEx worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Tennessee Air National Guard to move millions of COVID-19 test swabs to cities across the United States
Overall, the efforts of these Tennessee companies, and countless others, were instrumental in the response to COVID-19. It is this commitment and dedication that promises to serve as the foundation for Tennessee’s rebound.