From the front lines of national research to service on state-wide taskforces to behind-the-scenes support of local healthcare heroes, the men of Hampden-Sydney are making a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
On the research side, Dr. Brian Taylor ’95 leads a group at Battelle that works directly with live COVID-19 virus at the non-profit organization’s biosafety level-three lab in Aberdeen, MD. There, they are combatting shortages of COVID-19 assays and testing equipment and preparing for pre-clinical testing of numerous COVID-19 vaccines. A virologist by training, Taylor is working with the Department of Defense to expand COVID-testing capability for service members across the globe by fielding new testing instruments and assay kits. In the coming months, he and his team are slated provide critical testing before potential vaccines and therapies can move into clinical trials.
Taylor isn’t the only H-SC alumnus involved on the cutting edge of COVID-19 testing. Chairman and CEO of Microbac Laboratories Trevor Boyce ’80 and his team have pioneered a tool to help businesses and organizations keep employees and customers safe: the SARS-CoV-2 Environmental Surface Test. Working with the firm’s virology lab in Sterling, which is approved by the CDC to cultivate and test live COVID-19 virus, a team of Microbac scientists spent months repurposing a test used to detect coronavirus in humans for use on physical surfaces. “People want to know they're doing everything they can to keep their families, employees, and colleagues safe," Boyce says. "That's where Microbac springs into action: putting our decades of scientific experience to use providing crucial information for informed decisions. We are honored to be able to make our work accessible to smaller organizations wanting to do right by those who interact with them."
As vice president of operations and technology at SKC Inc., Tom Gray ’80 has overseen the company’s U.S. efforts to manufacture raw material for personal protective equipment for medical workers and first responders. Since mid-March, face shields have accounted for 90 percent of the plant’s thick-film production, with 300 hundred employees running production around the clock seven days a week—they sent out enough film to make over 125 million face shields in the first five days of increased production alone. In addition, Gray’s Georgia-based plant donated over 2,000 face masks and Tyvek suits to local hospitals and fire departments facing severe shortages in the early days of the pandemic. He credits his company’s plants in China and South Korea for helping his team stay ahead of the curve with materials, safety procedures, and best practices.
Small businesses are also joining efforts to support healthcare workers on the frontlines, including two family businesses connected to young Tiger alumni. Jordan Beck ’18 and his family have transitioned their company’s manufacturing capabilities to making masks and hospital beds for local hospitals, nursing homes, and first responders. Their Georgia-based mattress company, Heritage Sleep Concepts, has been recognized by multiple media outlets for its efforts. “I helped put together a production line to make masks for local hospitals low on supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Beck says. “Our production will now allow us to make around 1000 masks per day, and hopefully we will be able to become more efficient as time goes on.”