Exxon Mobil Corp. (Irving, Tex.; www.exxonmobil.com) and the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) they have initiated multi-sector and joint development projects to rapidly redesign and manufacture reusable personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care workers, such as face shields and masks, which are in short supply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other companies contributing their manufacturing capabilities for mask and face-shield production include Total Corbion, RadiciGroup, Design That Matters, Siemens and Solvay. PPE is in short supply, and Governor Cuomo of New York has called upon manufacturers to aid the pandemic response by producing critical medical supplies.
In response to the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, ExxonMobil is applying its knowledge and experience with polymer-based technologies in combination with GCMI to facilitate development and expedite third-party production of innovative safety equipment that can be sterilized and worn multiple times.
A new industrial-style mask is being fast-tracked for production. The design improves coverage of a health care worker’s nose and mouth and will use a replaceable cartridge system that includes a filtration fabric to prevent contact spread of the virus from the saturated filter. In this design, the filters are disposable while the main component of the mask can withstand repeated sterilization, thus prolonging the life-cycle of the product and addressing shortages of N95 masks.
Prototypes are currently being tested and reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When approved, production will begin immediately, with ExxonMobil supporting the identification of manufacturers familiar with the materials and process to quickly deliver the masks to doctors, nurses and health care providers. Once approved, manufacturers indicate they will be able to produce as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour.
“Expediting advanced technologies to help those who are combatting this global pandemic is absolutely critical for society,” said Karen McKee, president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company. “We’re proud to do our part by sharing our expertise and experience in material technologies, and energy supplies needed to support our health care workers. It’s just one example of ExxonMobil employees working around the clock to help keep our communities safe and limiting the spread of COVID-19.”
“Scaling solutions rapidly to address the global crisis requires significant investment, innovation and collaboration,” said Tiffany Wilson, CEO of Global Center for Medical Innovation. “By partnering with ExxonMobil, we’re harnessing the expertise and capabilities of one of the world’s largest energy companies to accelerate our ability to realize that vision.”
Another product developed by GCMI is a face shield made from high-grade polymers that can withstand the harsh conditions of sterilization to enable reuse, while meeting the visibility and safety requirements of current designs. The technology complies with existing safety standards, reducing the time from design to front-line use. More than 50,000 units have already been produced and are being distributed to hospitals in New York and Atlanta. Production facilities are ramping up to manufacture more than 170,000 shields per hour in the coming days.
GCMI verifies, validates and accelerates the development and commercialization of new medical technologies that save lives and improve patient care. GCMI has worked collaboratively during COVID-19 to design, develop, prototype, validate and execute the need for protection to frontline healthcare workers, with an efficient, quick process intended to save lives.
ExxonMobil is making its experts available to provide technical expertise and delivering polypropylene from its manufacturing sites in Baytown, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The raw materials will be expedited, if needed, for face mask assembly. The company will also facilitate supply chain interfaces to expedite deployment.
The initiative is a collaboration between GCMI; Dr. Joanna Newton, Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, Aflac Center and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Technology Center; and a team of scientists and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and its Invention Studio.