When Eric Couch, president of InPro Technologies in Frederick, heard from a friend that a private sector coalition was looking for technology to decontaminate N95 respirators using UV light, he knew that he had to get on board.

InPro Technologies specializes in UV tech, supplying it to tech companies across the market. Couch said that since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the company has been looking for a way to help.

The company has been working for less than two weeks to develop a machine that would decontaminate N95 respirators so that they can be reused by healthcare professionals amid the nationwide shortage.

InPro only has five employees, but Couch has brought on many other people to help with the development of the machine.

“The best way I can describe it is as a roller coaster, there’s just something comes up several times each day and it’s something positive that gets you excited,” Couch said. “You figured out something that’s going to work, and you’re riding the high of the roller coaster and then you run into an obstacle.”

Another Frederick company hoping to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic is Velocidy Bio, one of the members of Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc.

Velocidy Bio is the exclusive distributor in the United States and Canada for Molecular Biology Systems, a Dutch company that created a machine that decreases the time it takes to run molecular tests, like the one currently used to test if someone has COVID-19.

The NEXTGENPCR, the machine Velocidy Bio sells for the Dutch company, can only be sold for research uses right now, said CEO Brian McNally. It has not gone through Food and Drug Administration approval.

That means it is not likely that the NEXTGENPCR could be used commercially to test the swabs taken to determine if someone was infected with SARS-CoV-2.

But if a research lab decides to buy a NEXTGENPCR machine, it could do its own validation, said Gert de Vos, CEO of MBS.

Both the FDA and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare have their own regulations for laboratory tests that allow laboratories to use machines, like the NEXTGENPCR, without FDA regulation for research purposes, McNally said.

Velocidy Bio and MBS think the NEXTGENPCR could provide a solution for some laboratories, even outside of applications for COVID-19.

The NEXTGENPCR can run tests much faster than the current machines used to run polymerase chain reactions, the current test for COVID-19 and a test often used in research. According to a press release from Velocidy Bio, the NEXTGENPCR machine could run COVID-19 tests in eight minutes compared to the hour the test currently takes.

It also has a higher throughput, de Vos said, which means the machines can run more tests.

There is currently one NEXTGENPCR machine in the United States, de Vos said.

One of the largest obstacles that InPro has faced so far is the process to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration. InPro was planning on sending its first fully functioning machine to New York City, the epicenter of the American outbreak. But in order to do that, they needed FDA approval.

While the FDA has fast-tracked some of its approval procedures during the pandemic, the process is still long and arduous, and one that Couch is not entirely familiar with.

“It’s probably our biggest foray into some sort of medical or life sciences type of product,” Couch said.

InPro has teamed up with a lab in Germantown which will allow them to do pathogen testing with a strain of the coronavirus to see if their product will deactivate the virus on N95 respirators.

While the process is complicated and expensive, Couch knows that InPro has to do its part in the fight against COVID-19.

“But in the end, we decided if we were able to get this one system out, and it prevented one inoculation of one of our healthcare workers, it would have been worth the price that we would have to pay as a small company,” Couch said.

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter:

@hmongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

(6) comments

g8tkpr4101965

I recently spoke with a News Reporter from the Frederick News Post, Her name was Heather Mangilio. I asked Her what the story was going to be about and she said she was seeking people who had a Loved one in a Long Term Care Facility and who has Tested Positive for the Coronavirus, and wanted to speak with Family Members and get their opinion on how the Facility was handling the Patient. I almost immediately could tell by Her tone that She was looking for a Negatively Told Story and i responded by saying if your looking for me to say something Negative about the way the Facility is taking care of My Aunt at this time that's not going to happen. I then continued to explain to Her that My Aunt had Tested Positive for the Coronavirus about 3 weeks ago and that She has been placed in Isolation. To Break it down I I told Her since My Aunt has been at FH&RC She has been well taken care of and that the Staff has been extremely good about keeping me in the loop about how my aunt is doing and they contact me at anytime when there is a change in either Her Health or just minor thing like Changing or giving Her New Medications. During Her time in Isolation i have been contacted by either the Dr, the Nurse, the Social Worker or others who are part of Her Care Team about every 2-3 days to let me know of how things are going. I explained to Heather that everyone can be a Monday Night Quarterback and its easy to say could've or should've but all in all i think under the Stress and Circumstances this Virus has put on us all the Staff has done a Fabulous Job and I commend them for their Efforts and for taking such good care of My Aunt and Hope that anyone else who may have concerns about a loved one who may be at this Facility will get some relief from hearing this. It is SAD that the Media is normally only seeking Negative Type Stories and not the TRUTH... Again Thank you to all the Staff at the Fredrick Health and Rehabilitation Center for ALL You do... Also would like to Add today My Aunt Called me to tell me she is out of Isolation and back in Her Original Room, Thank God...

bosco

That's a great outcome for your aunt. Thanks for sharing. It also reinforces the stereotype that the media is looking to sensationalize most any story in ther search for clicks, views, and ratings.

bosco

Since Trump suggested that the US look into sterilizing N95 masks, I'm sure the never Trumpers will find fault with this innovation.

threecents

I am surprised that UV would work, since it does not penetrate well.

gabrielshorn2013

Doesn't have to since it is for surface decontamination. E-beam works well in this application also.

stevemckay

Love the innovative work at InPro.

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