Lorain County Community College donated hundreds of boxes of medical supplies to four Lorain County hospitals: Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital; Mercy Health’s Lorain and Allen hospital locations; and University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center in an effort to assist with an on-going shortage of supplies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The supplies included nitrile gloves, surgery masks, sterile gowns, surgical scrub caps and reusable eye shields from the College’s allied health and nursing education program and the micro electromechanical systems program, according to a news release from LCCC.
“Throughout this pandemic, we are taking measures to ensure the health and safety of our students and our community, said LCCC President Marcia Ballinger. "Donating these supplies to hospitals in need is simply one more way for us to do our part in the fight against coronavirus.”
Due to orders from Gov. Mike DeWine, LCCC announced recently that remote delivery of courses would extend for the remainder of the spring semester to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The hands-on component of these courses are not in session, freeing up supplies for community use.
“We are the community’s college," Ballinger said. "Our mission is to serve the greatest needs of our community. Right now, there is no greater need than protecting the health of our community.
“I look forward to resuming our training of the next generation of health care workers and first responders, but until then, I am pleased that our supplies can be used to protect those on the front lines of this battle – our healthcare workers, and many of them are LCCC graduates.”
LCCC is the community’s top provider of first responder training.
Since 2010, nearly 5,000 people have graduated from LCCC with degrees and certificates in health care.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Medical centers across the country are facing a shortage of the personal protective equipment to safely treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Caring for a patient in intensive care for a full day requires 36 pairs of gloves, 14 gowns, three pairs of goggles and 13 N-95 face masks, said Gov. Mike DeWine in his daily coronavirus update Thursday, urging anyone who can donate such supplies to do so.
To help address that shortage, Juggerbot 3D has spent nearly a week developing 3D printed face shields that it will ship to senior-living centers in Lorain and Youngstown, says vice president Dan Fernback.
Since the YBI portfolio company was connected to the Lorain center by one of the partners in the JumpStart Entrepreneurial Network, Juggerbot has developed two prototypes and aims to begin production this weekend. The shields will be printed in Juggerbot’s space in the Youngstown Business Incubator, while the two other components needed have been ordered.
“This is a little bit different from what we’re normally doing internally, especially since we’re taking on the assembly aspect,” Fernback says. “At the end of the day, even though we’ve always offered printing services, at our core, we’re machine builders. It’s a minor adjustment to make medical devices, but we’re happy to put the manufacturing hat on.”
The masks are not designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Juggerbot’s website notes, but can protect against droplet transmission through the eyes, nose and mouth.
Across the additive manufacturing sector, companies are looking for ways to contribute their processes to combat the shortage of medical equipment. America Makes has launched an online repository for product designs and is fostering connections between manufacturers and the health-care industry.
“As the Department of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institute for additive manufacturing, America Makes’ mission is to drive collaboration in our industry to meet the needs of the US government and manufacturing base,” America Makes said in a statement. “This mission couldn’t be more clear today with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and pending supply shortages throughout the US. We believe this repository will play a critical role in meeting the needs of front line health-care workers.”
Beyond the first two orders, Juggerbot has been in contact with the Ohio Health Care Association to find out what other local sites need the masks. Juggerbot’s capacity, Fernback estimates, is about 250 masks over the next two weeks. If the need increases, he says the company will tap into its network to try to get more made.
“We can start to tap into our network and see who else has the capacity, whether it’s customers with machines or contacts that are operating on other machines or other processes,” he says, noting that the sector has come together for this effort. “We’ve been on the phone with people from Lorain, Youngstown, parts of Cleveland and Columbus trying to understand this. We had a call with folks [Thursday] from Colorado. It’s all a similar push.”
For Juggerbot, Fernback said other medical supplies could be on the way, but for now the company is sticking to the face shields.
“The shields are pretty straightforward. It’s something that’s been promoted by the CDC as worthwhile in protecting carriers,” he says. “There are a lot of people looking for masks and valves. Those are great and we’ll look for opportunities there, but there’s a lot of uncertainty if those devices would perform adequately if they’re 3D printed.”
Although not in the additive manufacturing sector, GLI Pool Products in Youngstown is working to put together facemasks for medical staff. Owner Gary Crandall says material for 100,000 masks is on the way. The material will be cut on the company’s automated machines usually used for cutting vinyl linings for swimming pools.
In Mahoning County, the shortage of equipment was quantified by the local Emergency Management Agency director Dennis O’Hara. He said the county has received a shipment of equipment from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile, enough to supply just 5% of the area’s daily use.
In the shipment were 2,880 N-95 masks, 7,000 gloves, 978 gowns and 5,400 surgical masks. Eighty percent of the items were sent to hospitals. The items will be delivered to “hot spots” first, O’Hara said, adding that his agency is fielding requests for non-PPE needs as well.
“We were only able to accommodate a small percentage of the requests for the hospitals. We will work to continue to gather the totals and needs for the other facilities that are also in desperate need of PPE equipment,” O’Hara said via email. “Unfortunately this necessary PPE equipment enables our first responders, EMS and safety forces the ability to enter your home for all emergencies, not just the coronavirus. Without the proper safety equipment, we put everyone’s safety at risk.”
And in Columbiana County, local EMA director Peggy Clark says only 2% of what’s needed has arrived from the federal stockpile.
“We are running short. We’re probably in need of hundreds, if not thousands, of masks and gowns,” she said. “We have had contact from local residents, do-it-yourselfers and schools giving us supplies. Anything we’re getting in, we’re sending it right back out to whoever needs it. First responders have what they need right now, we’re just trying to make sure our long-term care facilities get what they need.”
In 2015, RhinoSystems Inc., the Brooklyn seller of Navage, a nasal irrigation system, trademarked the phrase, "Nasal Hygiene will be to the 21st Century what Oral Hygiene was to the 20th!"
The catchphrase even is plastered over the entrance to the company's offices and manufacturing facility in Brooklyn. And company president Martin Hoke is seeing signs — unexpectedly including the arrival of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 — that his trademark might be prophetic, as well as signs that sales of his patented device will continue to grow.
The Navage is a nasal irrigator with powered suction that pulls a saline solution, using a patented salt pod, through the nasal cavity to rinse debris or mucus generated by colds and allergies that can carry viruses and bacteria from nasal cavities.
The traditional nasal irrigator, the neti pot, has been used for centuries to rinse nasal cavities. A number of products on the market update that method of nasal irrigation. Most involve tilting your head to one side to run a saline solution through your top nostril, letting the solution drain through your bottom nostril.
Hoke, of course, came up with the idea for his product long before COVID-19 came along, and he linked the phrase more to the popularization of the neti pot by television celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz, which began in 2005, as a way to bring relief of sinus pain and congestion without the use of medications.
Hoke's idea for the Navage, which uses battery-powered suction, was a response to his own case of sinusitis, a condition caused by allergies, the common cold and viral infections. He found the existing products unappealing, since they needed gravity to clear nasal passages.
"The problem with the neti pot is it's messy and you have to do it over the sink," he said. "And it doesn't feel good while you're doing it."
The serial entrepreneur began working on an alternative in 2007. Before this venture, he'd started Red Carpet Airport Car Care in 1981, offering auto care services at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. In 1985, Hoke launched Red Carpet Cellular, an independent cellular distributor that he sold three years later. He also served in the U.S. Congress, winning elections as a Republican in 1992 and 1994.
Hoke would not disclose sales figures, but said RhinoSystems has sold 1.2 million devices since the summer of 2015, when the company started selling the Navage system on its own website and then added an Amazon sales channel before the end of that year.
The company recently raised $10.4 million privately, in a preferred stock sale, to finance further research and development, purchase new equipment to make salt pods and for marketing.
According to a 2018 market research report by Sheer Analytics & Insights Pvt. Ltd., a Kolkata, India, market research firm, the global nasal irrigation market is expected to grow rapidly, at a 24.6% compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2025, propelled by continuing industrialization and urbanization coupled with changing lifestyles.
Dr. Paul Little, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Southampton in Great Britain, researched the market for the Sheer Analytics report.
"I would certainly try nasal irrigation," Little said in the report, when asked about his suggestions for patients with consistent nasal infections. "Most people in our study found it helpful."
The major industry players in the global nasal irrigation market include companies such as Neilmed Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Health Solutions Medical Products Corp. of Los Angeles.
Selling for about $90 on Amazon and elsewhere, the Navage system is a premium product. Most products in the category sell for under $30.
Still, it's received high marks in a number of reviews of nasal products, with New York magazine calling it the best nasal irrigation system on the market. It gets 4.3 stars out of five on Amazon, with 69% of 2,223 reviewers rating it five stars.
The product is made in China and then warehoused at RhinoSystems' 65,000-square-foot facility in Brooklyn, in a building that formerly printed and warehoused products for American Greetings Corp. The salt pods are filled in Brooklyn and added to the product package. Hoke said the production line is running three shifts a day during the week and one shift each on Saturday and Sunday. The company employs more than 100 people.
Hoke used his own money, as well as nearly $2 million in angel investing, largely from private investors, to develop and refine his product for seven years before it was ready for sale to consumers.
Among RhinoSystems' early investors and supporters was the Innovation Fund of Northeast Ohio, which provided $100,000 in support in 2008, and its business incubator, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) Center at Lorain County Community College. Then, in 2018, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority awarded RhinoSystems an eight-year, 1.527% tax credit for its move into the former American Greetings space from a smaller space in Brooklyn Heights.
Though it is currently sold only in the United States and Canada, the product has patents and trademarks registered around the world.
Hoke's wife, Maria, who serves as company vice president and general counsel, is an intellectual property attorney with experience at the former Squire, Sanders & Dempsey law firm in Cleveland. She also did patent and trademark work at PolyOne Corp. in Avon Lake.
During a tour of the facility with a reporter, a staffer came up to Martin and Maria Hoke to say that the first week in March was the best-ever sales week for Navage at Bed Bath & Beyond. The national housewares firm sold 2,089 units of the system in the week ending March 7.
At first, RhinoSystems began sales in Canada only, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was slow to approve sale in the United States.
"The bottom line is that we just ran into a brick wall at the FDA, so we said, 'Well, that's enough of that,' " Hoke recalled. "After paying lawyers and wasting an incredible amount of time, I said, 'We'll start in Canada.' "
The slowness of the FDA process has frustrated device-makers in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere for a long time. Studies have shown it takes from three to seven years to bring a medical device to market in the U.S.
The Navage first made it to drugstores, in the CVS chain, in December 2016. Just after the new year, the Hokes returned to the office to find a rush order from CVS for 40,000 units.
"That was a real problem, but a good problem to have," Martin Hoke said. "We had to ship by air from China, we had to stop selling on Amazon for six weeks, we ran out of salt pods" to fill the order.
Since then, RhinoSystems has sold the product to the other big pharmacy chains, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Hoke said Target will start selling the product in April, and he's hoping a pitch to get the product on Walmart shelves — it's already on Walmart.com — will be successful.
He said waiting to approach brick-and-mortar retailers made sense.
"Starting off online has a lot of the advantages — it's definitely lower-cost than going directly into retail," Maria Hoke said. "You have a more direct relationship with your customer and you learn more about your customer. You get to refine your messaging and learn about the market in a much lower-risk way."
CLEVELAND, Ohio — In 2006, Julianne Klinger was pregnant with her first child with husband Jonathan. They were living in Jonathan’s native England, where midwives urge pregnant women to play music for their unborn babies to promote bonding.
Julianne looked for a device that would make it easy to play music to her baby in the womb. There were headphones that stretched over her belly, harnesses with speakers and tiny speakers that attached with sticky pads. All were too complicated or too messy.
What if, the Klingers asked themselves, playing music for an unborn baby was as easy as popping in earbuds? The question led them to invent Mbrio, a pregnancy earbud adapter. Standard earbuds fit into Mbrio’s two silicon adapters; the adapters clip onto the waistband of the wearer’s pants.
“That’s it — it takes three seconds,” Jonathan said. He and Julianne, who live in Pepper Pike, are co-founders and co-presidents of Mbrio Technologies, the company behind Mbrio. Jonathan and Julianne are the only full-time employees.
When model Ashley Graham shared a photo of herself using Mbrio with her millions of Instagram followers, more than 1,700 people left comments, Jonathan said. Taylor Brooke Boyd, wife of country music star Craig Wayne Boyd, also has used it.
Mbrio made entertainment and fitness website PopSugar’s list of “Must Have” products last fall, Jonathan said.
Since Mbrio’s launch six months ago, even more women have used it to bond with their babies. The device, which costs $29.95, can be used with wireless or wired earbuds. It’s available on the Mbrio website. The Klingers declined to give sales figures.
Some expectant mothers say they feel their babies kicking while the tunes play, but their babies quiet down during the pauses between tracks. That makes sense, because unborn babies begin to hear at 18 weeks’ gestation, and respond to sounds at 25 weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Kristi Szabo, 39, of Painesville, created a playlist for her son Dawson, who was born in January.
“Music is very important to me and holds so much meaning to me in many milestones in my life,” Szabo wrote in an email. “I wanted to share that love and commemorate the pregnancy of Dawson with music.”
Mbrio user Heidi Malleske of Fairview Park is wearing the adapters while taking walks and doing low-impact exercises during her pregnancy.
“I have read the research on how amazing music can be for a baby's development in the womb,” Malleske wrote in an email. “So I figured, why not do anything I could to help improve that?"
That research suggests that music helps stimulate certain areas of an unborn baby’s brain.
A study published in the medical journal Neural Plasticity in 2019 examined the research on fetal and neonatal processing of music. It found evidence that the ability of newborns to respond to music is influenced by sounds they were exposed to during the last trimester.
A 2017 controlled trial published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice suggested music improves the vital signs of pregnant women during the third trimester, and increases fetal heart rates.
Julianne Klinger wasn’t able to use Mbrio with either of her two pregnancies, because the development process took years. Initially, the Klingers used money from family and friends to fund Mbrio Technologies, and kept their jobs.
Now, a thriving Mbrio Technologies is their full-time gig.
The couple met while Julianne was in business school in Chicago; Jonathan was working for a startup and traveling between Britain and the United States. They married in Julianne’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, in 2004.
The Klingers lived in Paris and Britain, then moved back to the United States in 2007 to take jobs in marketing and engineering in Silicon Valley and New York.
The couple moved to Cleveland in 2015 for Jonathan’s former position running marketing, research and development for a Cleveland-based business.
They found a welcoming startup environment in Ohio. Last year, Mbrio Technologies won $100,000 in a pitch competition run by Glide, which offers assistance to entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio.
Mbrio components are made overseas and assembled at Christie Lane Industries, a nonprofit organization in Norwalk, Ohio, that provides employment for adults with developmental disabilities.
Having access to a 3-D printer at Sears think[box], a maker space at Case Western Reserve University for students, entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations, allowed the company to make prototype earbud adapters at low cost.
“Being in Cleveland has been phenomenal,” Jonathan said.
The Cleveland startup LIFTR uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help companies model how audiences will engage with ads, saving businesses the time and money of traditional A/B testing. Although it just released its first product in January, the company has already attracted a number of significant clients, said co-founder Ted Troxell. Still, as he looks ahead to the next stage of growth, he's worried about attracting talent.
"The difficulty we have establishing an AI company in Northeast Ohio is expanding our talent pool," he said. "There are lots of people who want to learn AI here, but to really see success, we need buy-in from all the stakeholders."
Brendan Mulcahy, a software developer who co-chairs the Cleveland AI meetup group with Troxell, said he believes Troxell is right. He said that Cleveland needs more tech talent who understand AI in order to unlock the full business potential of the technology. "There are a lot of opportunities where companies could be using these technologies, but because there aren't a lot of people who know how to do it, they're not taking advantage of it," he noted.
Nonetheless, these tech leaders say that the success of the AI meetup group, which regularly attracts 70 or more people to its free, open sessions, is a good sign. They also run an online study group called Fast AI that has been regularly attracting 50 or more people.
As more people are trained in AI and more businesses tap into machine learning, Northeast Ohio's tech talent pool will grow, they say.
Heather Hall, entrepreneur-in-residence for software and IT with the Jumpstart Inc. business accelerator, said her organization is seeing more and more AI startups in Northeast Ohio. "I've been in this role for 16 months, and the number of AI companies I have now versus this time last year, it has grown exponentially," she said.
Finding people well-versed in AI is also not just a Cleveland challenge. Tech leaders say there's a global AI skills shortage. "All of these companies have been told for years that data is the answer, and now that they have all this data, they don't have anyone to analyze it," Troxell said.
While companies on the coasts vacuum up top talent by offering higher salaries and better incentive packages, Cleveland's cost of living, amenities and entrepreneurial ecosystem make it attractive, too.
Those factors are very attractive, said Austin Murray, CEO of Prophit.ai, a company that uses machine learning to help businesses avoid paying indirect tax on items they've purchased. "From a startup perspective, you've got a lot of really exciting resources here," he said. "We've felt very much like we're getting a hands-on approach from every expert."
Prophit.ai has found a niche by focusing on manufacturing companies in Ohio and the Midwest. States offer a lot of favorable exemptions for these industries in order to keep them here and incentivize growth. Murray previously worked as a tax attorney, where he saw many manufacturers paying high legal and accounting costs to avoid unnecessary taxes. He started Prophit.ai in order to help solve that business problem through machine learning technology.
Troxell said the entire community needs to get behind AI in order for it to realize its full potential in Northeast Ohio. "It needs to be a community effort, not just from the AI community or the tech or entrepreneurial community," he said. "This is something that could really help us grow.
"If we're able to come together and grow the talent pool here, it really sets us up for a lot of success," he added.
Some of the resistance to AI stems from a false notion that it will take away good jobs. "We spend a lot of time explaining that AI is not what science fiction makes it out to be," said Murray. "I think the way AI should be implemented is for augmentation rather than automation. You use the technology to enable existing professionals to do the work more quickly and professionally."
"It's not a thing where we want to get rid of all of the jobs," Mulcahy added. "We just want to get rid of the jobs that are really boring."
Hall said that as startups like LIFTR and Prophit.ai continue to develop, she'd like to see more Northeast Ohio businesses using their technologies. "The technology needs to be adopted by companies big or small, either through piloting or purchasing these solutions and starting to apply them," she said. "It's that rising tide that lifts all boats. Companies coming in behind startups and putting it into practice is what we really need to drive growth."
For athletes, getting enough water is simple, right? You take a drink when you’re thirsty. But one Ohio company is showing that runners, competitors and others have been approaching hydration with a stone-age mindset. Akron startup RooSense has developed a wearable textile that can monitor fluid levels, sensing when you need a drink and taking the guess work out of proper hydration.
“We are developing a smarter textile to help athletes learn about their sweat,” said co-founder and CTO Chelsea Monty-Bromer. “The tech is a fabric sensor that can be integrated into clothing and gear that athletes are already wearing. It can alert them to dehydration so that they know when to take a drink, what to hydrate with and what’s the best quantity. We want to help athletes maintain peak performance and prevent serious illness, injury and even death.
Many athletes are obsessive about what they put into their bodies, and RooSense wants to help them feel the same way about hydration. In the age of personalization, the wearable tech — likely placed in a sleeve — would help them develop a plan for their water intake rather than relying on estimates.
“We really want to teach athletes more about their sweat and their hydration, because right now they’re just guessing,” said Monty-Bromer. “Everyone thinks, ‘If I go out running with my friends and they drink three bottles of Gatorade, I think I have to do the same thing because that works for them.’ But really, we’re all very different. So it’s about teaching people that their hydration and their health should be personalized to them. We want to help them develop the best strategy to prevent that guessing. Because, unfortunately, it can have very dire consequences.”
Like so many successful startups, RooSense needed an early pivot to find its niche. Monty-Bromer, a professor at the University of Akron, developed the idea with her co-founder and Chief Scientist Hanieh Ghadimi. The pair worked at the university to use their tech for prosthetic limbs, a plan that they eventually realized was missing the tech to back it up. But the duo’s smart textile had plenty of other uses and eventually they arrived at their new trajectory.
“The original idea was to use the sensors to measure temperature and sweat and kick on a cooling device,” said Monty-Bromer. “But the technology required a battery that was too heavy, and it never ended up happening. So we had this fabric and we didn’t know what to do with it. We participated in the I-Corps program and learned a lot about the market and how our sensor could help athletes with hydration and have a function in other areas. There really aren’t other textiles like this in production, and we estimate that it’s a $2 billion market opportunity.”
The RooSense team is now doing testing and developing a prototype of its product. They plan to spend this year working with athletes to fine-tune the tech, with a projected launch in the summer of 2021. And from what they’ve heard so far, RooSense should be well-received.
“The coaches and trainers we’ve talked to are very interested because they want to know more about their athletes,” said Monty-Bromer. “In terms of the athletes themselves, we’ve had a lot of interest from endurance athletes and soccer players — anyone who’s out there sweating for a long period of time. Cyclists, runners, triathletes and others are really interested in learning more about their sweat and having that real-time feedback. They want to maximize their hydration and not be guessing while they’re performing. Some of them are out there for eight to 16 hours, so hydration is extremely important.
From help with their pivot to funding and even office space, RooSense has taken full advantage of Ohio’s many resources. And with a big launch on the horizon, the company’s leaders are thankful to have been put in a position to deal with the entrepreneurial twists and turns and be next in a long line of Ohio inventors.
“We’ve been very fortunate, and Akron and the state of Ohio have been very good to us,” said Monty-Bromer. “The city itself really wants small businesses to succeed and has really invested a lot of time and money into helping us. That’s been really beneficial, and it’s made it a lot easier for us to move forward. We just received a grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund and another from the Great Lakes Innovation Fund. We make use of the Bounce Innovation Hub and the Small Business Development Center. So we’ve really used the resources available across the state, and it’s been great for us.”