Prototype: A Product Development Blog

Pro-to-type. n. ˈprō-tə-ˌtīp An original, full-scale and usually working model of a new product, design, or new version of an existing product.

Mercy Research and Development is truly a prototype among research and development labs across the country. This is a forum for research scientists, physicians and technology transfer professionals to discuss our experiences, insights and humorous moments throughout device development, testing and commercialization of products.

Sep 12th, 2014

Theraworx Arrives in Liberia to Aid Ebola Relief Efforts

Asheville Business Helps Combat Ebola..)Mercy R&D conducted early studies for the development of Theraworx, a skin friendly disinfectant that is now being used to aid relief workers in their efforts to fight Ebola.

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Sep 8th, 2014


Job Opening Announcement

Mercy Medical Research Institute, Inc. Research and Development Division Springfield, Missouri

To be filled by: ASAP Opening Date: 09/08/2014 Closing Date: TBD, upon selection

Product Specialist III – “Business Development Specialist”

We are looking for a self-motivated, innovative business development professional to market Mercy R&D capabilities and services. The person must convey a high level of professionalism and expertise in unscripted and impromptu situations. Must be able to work well with a core team, as well as independently create and attain project goals for success. This person will be responsible for bringing in contract R&D business, conducting market research towards development of product market analyses, new project selection and will serve as the primary touch point for advancing R&D products into Mercy Health. This position will be responsible for communicating Mercy R&D’s unique assets both in person and through the creation of printed materials, and will run with marketing campaigns to bring in new business. This position will build and maintain relationships with external clients, investors and licensees, as well as internal Mercy clinicians and coworkers across the Mercy Health, seven-state region. At a minimum, candidates should hold a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, however a MBA is preferred. A successful candidate will have marketing and/or sales experience, and the primary performance measurement will be meeting revenue targets by landing R&D services contracts.

About Us

Mercy Medical Research Institute (MMRI) is located in Springfield, Missouri and was established in 2007 as a not-for-profit entity wholly owned by Mercy. The Clinical Studies Division works with Industry sponsors from both pharmaceutical and device manufacturers to recruit and manage participation in clinical trials. This group of nursing, regulatory, financial and administration professionals also assists Mercy clinicians with internal study development and data analysis. Mercy Research & Development is a multi-faceted group of engineers, scientists, marketers, and administrators who works closely with system-wide Mercy clinicians and coworkers to identify areas of patient care that could be improved. R&D strives to create innovative, affordable solutions to problems healthcare institutions face every day by creating better medical devices and improved treatment procedures. Through clinical studies and medical device development, MMRI is working to provide higher quality care for patients around the globe.


Submit a resume or C.V. with a cover letter to:

Keela Davis Director, MMRI

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Jan 13th, 2014

LINK TO PROTOTYPE - Our Product Development Blog

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Aug 12th, 2013

Mercy R&D Inventor Receives Missourian Award

August 9, 2013

He may not have been born in Missouri, but Mercy plastic surgeon Dr. Bharat Shah has been chosen as one of this year’s recipients of The Missourian Award. He was chosen for his contributions to the medical community and medical research.

Working with Mercy Research & Development (R&D), Dr. Shah has invented four devices. The Secure Flip Pediatric Dual Positioner is used during surgeries on infants with spina bifida. It allows doctors to safely flip the patient from their front onto their back while protecting the spine before and after surgery. Another, the Secure360 Prone Positioning Device, is used for head surgeries on infants. It provides access to all areas of the skull while keeping the child safe and their body stable. Both of those inventions have been licensed to medical device manufacturers.

Dr. Shah has two other inventions that are available for licensing. The GraftOn Skin and Tissue Applicator was developed to simplify skin grafting. Right now, surgeons struggle with excess fluid buildup that can keep the graft from properly adhering to the wound. This tool helps surgeons work more efficiently. Finally, Dr. Shah created the PolyTrak Intermaxillary Fixation System to replace the traditional method of wiring a jaw shut. When patients have a jaw fracture, surgeons must align their jaw and have always done that with sharp wires. This system is made from a softer plastic arch bar and brackets that keep the teeth aligned while reducing patient discomfort. The product also makes application easier and quicker for doctors. For more information on any of these inventions, please visit

“Dr. Shah has a wonderful combination of talents,” said Keela Davis, director of Mercy R&D. “He’s not only a great physician, but he also understands the need for inventions that can help patients and doctors. He’s exceptional at solving the puzzle of creating a new product and can effectively communicate that solution during design, development and commercialization.”

The Missourian Award acknowledges the most accomplished citizens of Missouri. Recipients are selected by a committee. While most winners are native to the state, under exceptional circumstances a person may qualify after living in Missouri for at least 15 years. Nominees have made an outstanding contribution to the state or nation. Past award recipients include Walt Disney, Walter Cronkite and John Q. Hammons. “It’s an honor to be recognized with such an outstanding group,” said Dr. Shah. “I hope to continue to promote innovation in health care in the laboratory, the clinical setting and the board room.” In fact, Dr. Shah is currently working on several new inventions.

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Jun 25th, 2013

Mercy Researchers Make Medical Breakthrough to Protect Soldiers

When an improvised explosive device deploys in the face of an American soldier, medics rush to treat life-threatening injuries. That often means injuries to the eyes, which account for nearly 40 percent of all war wounds, can go untreated for days, frequently resulting in blindness.

Now, scientists at Mercy Research and Development (R&D) in Springfield, Mo., have a solution, thanks to a $4.8 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. Mercy scientists have developed prototype contact lenses capable of delivering medication. They’re designed for medics to apply to soldiers’ eyes right on the battlefield - immediately stabilizing the eye and preserving vision.

“This research project is the most personal thing I’ve done in my career,” said Dr. Shachar Tauber, Mercy section chair of ophthalmology and optometry and principal investigator on this research and product development. “My father was injured in war, causing blindness in one eye and diminished sight in the other. Making sure our soldiers not only live, but live to literally see their families again, is so important to me.”

Other researchers have been working on similar projects for decades, but Dr. Tauber looked at it from a different angle. He had the idea to apply a Nobel prize-winning breakthrough - electrospun polymer fibers - to the world of ophthalmology. “We decided to impregnate those fibers with medication,” he explained. “More than a few experts said it couldn’t be done, but we now have the test results and the patent to prove the science works.”

Mercy researchers have developed several lenses with different uses. One lens can simultaneously deliver a steroid and an antibiotic to reduce swelling and fight infection for up to seven days. When wounds involve lacerations to the cornea, another product works as a sealant to hold the wound shut for up to three days, while also delivering medication. That allows time for the soldier to be transported to a military hospital for surgery.

“Another great thing about this research is its applications beyond military needs,” said Keela Davis, director of Mercy R&D. “The base lens can be infused with just about any drug for the eye and made available to everyone. We know when patients are prescribed eye drops for things like glaucoma or pink eye, the medication only reaches the eye about a quarter of the time. That’s either because the patients don’t use the eye drops, or the medication lands somewhere else. Eye drop installation is difficult, plus tears immediately dilute the drug and wash it away. This solves those problems and will lead to improved visual outcomes for patients.”

Now that researchers have tested prototypes that work, they still have one obstacle to overcome before the contacts can get to the battlefield. “They need to be mass produced,” explained Davis. “We are looking to license the technology to an established company or find an investor to help us set up the manufacturing process here.”

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Jun 25th, 2013

Mercy R&D Announces Breakthrough to Save Soldiers' Sight

SPRINGFIELD, -- It's a medical breakthrough that will help those on the front lines. Mercy Hospital workers in Springfield will soon be protecting the eye sight of soldiers all around the world.

For more than two years scientists have worked in laboratories to develop special contact lenses for soldiers.

When a soldier is seriously hurt in combat, medics focus on the life-threatening injuries That often means eye wounds can go untreated and sometimes result in blindness.

"Some things such as these contact lenses, six years ago when I was there would have been phenomenal at the time," said veteran and nurse, Brandon Trumble.

Researchers have developed medication-delivering contact lenses. Lenses carry antibiotics and steroids to reduce swelling and fight infection. Another lense works as a sealant to hold the wound shut while delivering meds to the eye.

This nearly five million dollar project was through a grant from the Department of Defense.

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Sep 10th, 2012

Mercy R&D Spurs Small Business SBJ 9/7/12

9/7/2012 4:29:00 PM Mercy R&D spurs small business

Southwest Injection Mold works with an out-of-state licensee to bring Safety Shield device to market

Brian Brown Reporter

Mercy Research & Development’s work is moving from the lab to the market.

Armed with a two-year $200,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corp., Mercy R&D is seeking manufacturers for the products inventors have developed in labs the last three years.

Springfield-based Southwest Injection Mold LLC this summer was selected to manufacture the Safety Shield, one of four Mercy R&D-licensed products. Mercy R&D officials said Southwest Injection Mold produced a prototype for Chatsworth, Calif.-based licensee Ansell Sandel Medical Solutions LLC, and the Springfield company turned the work into a contract for the shield’s first production run of 5,000.

The Safety Shield is designed to protect caregivers from getting stuck with needles.

“Basically, when you hold a vial, you are exposed to getting stuck with a needle if things aren’t just perfect. This shield helps prevent getting stuck,” said Mercy R&D Research Manager Martin Reuter.

Southwest Injection owner Bob Foster said his company received more than $6,000 from Mercy R&D to develop the Safety Shield prototype and $4,800 from Ansell to manufacture the first order of the shields by Sept. 1.

“It almost looks like a little Frisbee. It is a small disc that has an opening with a little hood on it in the middle where you slide these bottles with medicine in them,” Foster said. “The shield pops the cap off in one smooth action.”

Foster said Southwest Injection is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of the pieces, and he is talking with Ansell officials about developing an eight-cavity mold that would reduce production costs nearly 80 percent per unit. The first 5,000 shields were produced with a manual mold for 96 cents per unit, and an automatic eight-cavity mold could produce shields for 20 cents per unit, he said.

With an interest in keeping work local, Reuter contacted Foster to see if Southwest Injection could produce molds for R&D. Foster said the company also has made a mold for medicated contact lenses R&D is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“(Mercy R&D) is turning out to be a good customer. Hopefully, it keeps growing,” Foster said.

Mercy R&D Director Keela Davis said the grant doesn’t fund product development, but it supports the launch to commercialization. The funds will be used to develop databases of entrepreneurs and investors who might be interested in starting firms to manufacture technologies developed in Mercy’s labs, as well as assist companies with accessing investment capital.

“As part of the grant, we have agreed that we will start at least two companies. We have said that we would want to license one of our technologies to an existing Missouri medical device company, and we have said additionally we want to license another product to another Missouri company that currently is not (manufacturing) medical devices, and help it make that transition,” Davis said.

She said no companies or investors had been selected to receive grant funds as of Sept. 3. Davis said Mercy would provide support upfront and receive quarterly reimbursements with the grant funds.

“We are in our data gathering phase. We are just trying to figure who all is out there and what their interests might be. Then we’ll move into the more serious discussions and negotiations of matching entrepreneurs and investors with a particular technology and getting it off the ground,” Davis said.

She said R&D could work with a range of company types or investors, and one company could produce only one specialized product or it may manufacture multiple products that are similar, such as foam positioners designed to reduce surgery times.

While the Safety Shield is the first R&D product to be manufactured by a private Springfield company, it is not the first to be licensed or the first to be produced locally.

Hands First was licensed to Nixa-based Avadim II in August 2010, and it was bottled by Aire-Master of America Inc. in Nixa, Davis said. The other two Mercy R&D-licensed products are the Secure 360 Prone Positioning Device and the Secure Flip Pediatric Dual Positioner. Both products were licensed to Lutz, Fla.-based Soule Medical in July.

Springfield-based Sugar Design Studio Inc. has handled branding work for all four of R&D’s licensed products.

Owner Russ Holland said his daughter attended Springfield Catholic High School with Hands First inventor Dr. Roger Huckfeldt’s daughter, and Holland worked with Huckfeldt on branding before Mercy R&D was formally established in 2007. Holland said he came up with the Hands First name when Huckfeldt and Mercy R&D were looking to market the product.

“The solution was originally called Thera-Works,” Holland said. “They were looking for something a little more marketable, something more recognizable.”

Holland, who has worked in packaging and branding for 25 years and whose experience includes developing the Mother’s Brewing Co. brand, said he has been involved with at least six products for Mercy’s development arm. Though he declined to disclose revenue estimates, Holland called the money earned from branding and packaging as modest and likely less than the Web development work he performed on

“It has been nice that (Mercy R&D) has looked to work with somebody in the Springfield area,” Holland said.

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Jul 16th, 2012

Governor Nixon Announces $200k Grant to Mercy R&D from Missouri Technology Corp.

July 16, 2012

Gov. Nixon announces $200,000 grant to Mercy Research and Development in Springfield to help entrepreneurs launch more start-up biomedical businesses

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Mercy Research and Development in Springfield to announce his administration's awarding of a $200,000 grant to the organization to expand its biomedical commercialization activities. Mercy Research and Development is part of the Mercy Health System.

The $200,000 grant, from the Missouri Technology Corporation's Missouri Building Entrepreneurial Capacity program, will assist entrepreneurs with creating and launching innovative biomedical device companies that are developing solutions to a variety of medical issues.

"The physicians within Mercy are known for delivering world-class healthcare, but they also stand at the forefront of biomedical research. Their spirit of innovation and invention are leading to the development of new medical devices and new Missouri-based start-up businesses," said Gov. Nixon. "This impressive organization is a leader in Missouri's emerging biomedical technology sector, and this grant will assist Mercy in its continued development of innovative medical products to serve as a catalyst for new start-up businesses."

Mercy Research and Development will use the $200,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation to address its primary goals of facilitating new biomedical startup businesses based on novel technologies developed in its research labs; assisting start-up companies with accessing investment capital; and other commercial support services.

Mercy Research and Development specializes in the development and commercialization of medical innovations, harnessing ideas from healthcare providers to create market-ready solutions to everyday issues and problems they encounter. Established in 2007, the organization currently employs 12 full-time scientific and business professionals at its location in Springfield.

Mercy Research and Development has 24 medical devices currently in development, ranging from a safety shield, which protects health care workers from accidental needle sticks, to the Graft On Skin and Tissue Applicator, which makes successful skin grafting easier. Just this month, Mercy Research and Development licensed two foam positioners, which will help put infants in the correct position for delicate surgeries. Mercy Research and Development is a senior corporate affiliate of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center at Missouri State University.

In the past 14 months, Mercy Research and Development has commercialized two medical products, including Hands First, an alcohol-free foaming sanitizer that is proven 99 percent effective at killing harmful bacteria and viruses. Developed by a physician-entrepreneur in Springfield, the product is now manufactured in nearby Nixa. Mercy is also actively seeking to partner with start-up or established companies for six other products under development.

The Missouri Technology Corporation's Missouri Building Entrepreneurial Capacity program has recently supported other efforts to enhance the state's entrepreneurial capacity, including the launch of Arch Grants in St. Louis; the expansion of the IT Entrepreneur Network; and expansion of the laboratories at the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia.

Gov. Nixon has made assisting and encouraging start-up businesses in Missouri a priority since the beginning of his administration. Last month, CNN-Money rated Missouri as the nation's sixth-best state for new business start-ups as part of its "10 Most Entrepreneurial States for 2011." Missouri was the only Midwestern state in the CNN-Money's Top 10. Additionally, the world-renowned Kauffman Foundation issued a report earlier this year that ranked Missouri as sixth in the nation in entrepreneurial activity during 2011- up from its 2010 ranking of 35th.

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Jul 16th, 2012



Research & Development has more reason to celebrate in July with the licensing of THREE of our products to external companies.

The Secure 360 and the Secure Flip, infant surgical positioning devices, have been licensed by Soule Medical.

Ansell Sandel Medical Solutions has taken on our needle stick prevention device, Safety Shield.

Congratulations to our inventors and the entire Mercy R&D team as we see product commercialization in action!

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Jul 13th, 2012

The Evolution of a Scientist

Thirteen of Springfield Public Schools’ brightest spent Wednesday, June 27 with Mercy Research & Development in a crash course for medical device design and investigation into solving real healthcare challenges. The afternoon was a small part of a larger project that partners SPS with Missouri State for four weeks of collaboration, inspiration and self-discovery. The program is a part of the SPS summer school curriculum, in which thirteen applicants were selected based on their academics and inclination to the sciences.

Stephanie Blake, Parkview physics instructor and leader of the science scholars program guides the students through a rigorous review of chemistry, physics and biology to prepare them for experiences with Missouri State University’s cooperating science departments. Jordan Valley Innovation Center affiliates also participate by providing “day in the life” opportunities for the group. Blake says that typically, students begin with pre-conceived notions of their ideal careers, and “graduate” from the program with completely different ideas. Each year the consensus is the same; enthusiasm for careers in science and technology is alive and well.

R&D engages in community outreach by hosting tours and activities throughout the year for high school students from across the state, including our local Greenwood Laboratory School and the Missouri Innovation Academy (competitive state program with selected applicants). In 2013, R&D has committed to hosting up to three CASL (Citizenship and Service Learning) volunteers for each academic semester to provide research exposure and learning opportunities for college students.

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Apr 12th, 2012

Mercy Research Institute Quarterly Newsletter

The beginning of 2012 has been exciting for Mercy Research Institute. The Research and Development division is continuing work on the Corneal Wound Repair Project while moving forward with projects in different stages of commercialization. Clinical Trials is currently supporting more than 100 drug, device and investigator initiated research protocols while Trauma and Burn are continuing to submit abstracts and present at conference all across the country. To learn more about Mercy Medical Research Institute read the latest edition of our newsletter.



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Jan 25th, 2012

Why a technology video is beneficial

The start of a new year is a perfect time for technology transfer offices to look at the past year and evaluate what tactics worked, what didn’t and what needs to be done differently. Will 2012 be the year you jump into social media? Or the year you implement new marketing strategies, like video? Product videos can give the viewer a quicker and easier to comprehend overview of the technology than a traditional PDF listing can. It also allows the viewer to see the technology or device even in concept form.

Video production can be a financial and time investment that many technology transfer offices are nervous about making. Partnering with your university media department or in-house video team is a great way to cut costs if hiring a production company is not in the budget. However, if the budget allows use of a production company, I recommend keeping it local and using them regularly. The more you work with the same people, the easier the process becomes.

At Mercy Research and Development video production has been beneficial to marketing our technologies. If video production is uncharted territory for your Technology Transfer Office, make 2012 the year to try it. Here are five reasons video should be in your product marketing arsenal.

  1. Turns the technology into a story. I try to think of every product as a living, breathing being that has a story to tell. Start by establishing the problem to be solved or the need to be met. Introduce the people involved in the creation of the device and the journey to a solution. The inventor of the technology is naturally going to be its number one advocate, so give him or her the platform (in a structured manner) to talk about all the features, benefits and highlights of the device or technology. He or she will add credibility and be able to accurately discuss the technical aspects of the technology.

  2. Makes complicated information easier to understand. Whether it is a visual representation like a chart or graph, an animation of a process or a verbal explanation, video can convey information in a way that diverse audiences at varying level of knowledge on a particular topic can understand.

  3. Brings a concept to life. Often the solution to the problem is a concept where there is nothing tangible or flashy. This is where video is most beneficial, because anything can exist on-screen. A visual representation will often help a potential licensee better understand your concept, even at its earliest stages of conception.

  4. Helps your technologies stand out. This is especially true for smaller, less known TTO offices and R&D labs. You may have the best technology, but if no one knows it is out there it doesn’t matter.

  5. Content can and should be repurposed. Use the video during meetings, presentations, at tradeshow booths. Post the video on your website and Facebook account. Tweet about it and add it to your Linked In product page. Create a social media news release and link reporters to it. The possibilities for repurposing the content are endless, so if you are making the investment, get the most out of it.

Over the next eight weeks marketing and licensing professionals with Mercy R&D will post a series of blogs related to creating an effective technology video for your Technology Transfer Office. Topics will include: creating an effective video, how an investment in video pushes technologies out the door, coaching your inventors to get comfortable on camera, and how to be a superstar client and get the most out of your money when working with a production company.

Angela Garrison
Angela Garrison is a product marketing specialist with Mercy R&D, a multidisciplinary research and development group located in Springfield Missouri which works to create better medical devices and innovative, affordable solutions to problems healthcare institutes face. She is responsible for Mercy R&D’s external communications including: social media, marketing, public relations and video prodcution. Prior to joining Mercy R&D she worked in the public relations office at St. John’s Health System, which is part of Mercy Health, the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S.

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Jan 10th, 2012

Hand Hygiene Key to Fighting the Flu

The CDC is indicating that flu season may be upon us for this year. This provides the perfect setting for a simple reminder of the need for hand hygiene. Viral illnesses like the flu are spread from person to person, most commonly through direct contact. It is important to remember that many times co-workers come to work when they are first experiencing symptoms but are already contagious. Our hands represent the most common point of contact between ourselves and others, making hand hygiene a first line of defense and protection.

Washing with warm water and soap remains a key component of hand hygiene. Hand sanitizers provide a reliable option when it is impossible or impractical to wash between each potential contamination. As a physician and research scientist with an interest in infection prevention, I feel that it is important to consider the following when choosing an appropriate hand sanitizer:

  1. How long does the sanitizer offer protection? Alcohol based sanitizers provide the shortest period of protection overall and different products have unique characteristics that may enhance coverage against recontamination.

  2. Does the sanitizer dry out the skin resulting in additional cracks and irritations? These minor injuries not only discourage use of a sanitizer often enough, but actually increase your risk of problems.

  3. Does the sanitizer burn or sting when applied? Pain when applying is likely to decrease your usage and leave you vulnerable to further infection.

  4. Is the sanitizer really a sanitizer? Sanitizers are regulated through the FDA either as drug applications or via monograph. An easy check is to review the label. If the label does not have an active drug listing for an antiseptic or antimicrobial component, then chances are, it is NOT a sanitizer.

Dr. Huckfeldt, inventor of Hands First sanitizer, is the Medical Director for St. John’s Medical Research Institute. He oversees all medical aspects of research activities including: clinical trials, product development and trauma and burn research, and serves as an inventor and scientist as well. Prior to his role in research, Dr. Huckfeldt was the Medical Director for St. John’s Level One Trauma and Burn Center in Springfield, Missouri. He is board certified in general surgery and surgical critical care. For more information about Dr. Huckfeldt’s inventions, visit

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Dec 27th, 2011

Putting my Two “Chips” in on Why Betting on PR is a Smart Play

An article in Inc. today rejuvenated my philosophy that PR is still the quickest and most cost-effective way to not only build a brand, but manage it. Caroline Limpert’s “Why I’m Betting on PR” discusses her reasoning for allocating a small marketing budget solely toward PR strategies. Her reasons for choosing PR include: PR builds brand, PR generates awareness and PR isn’t just press anymore. All true and I am in 100% agreement, but in case you are still not convinced I would offer two additional reasons why PR should be your go-to strategy for small marketing budgets.

PR Builds Relationships

Strong relationships are a staple component to any successful PR campaign. PR helps you not only build these relationships with traditional media reporters, but also, through the use of social media, which allows you to build strong relationships with your customers. Social media allows brands to openly participate in the conversation happening about them. You are not just talking to them and hoping they hear your message, you are talking with them. It allows you to engage with your customers and build those valuable relationships where they are. Just because the audience is different and the mode of delivering the message has changed to 140 characters or less doesn’t mean the same tried and true PR relationship building rules don’t apply.
-Be genuine

-Be accurate

-Be timely

-Be accessible

-Be interesting

Whether furthering a relationship with a loyal customer or forming new relationships with first time users or reporters, PR when implemented properly, can help you and your brand build lifelong relationships that are a win-win for everyone.

PR is something you are probably doing already

If you are managing a social media account for your company or organization you are already doing PR (whether you like it or not). As Limpert mentions, PR is no longer focused on traditional forms of media, but on the Internet, where everyone has a voice. PR is not only about the message/story a reporter tells, it is about guiding the story ANYONE following or liking you is telling. This creates a potentially stickier situation than traditional forms of PR can generate.

Social media is all about people being able to communicate in an open forum. It is vital PR professionals focus on guiding the message and actively participating in the conversation, no matter what direction the story takes. Often times it won’t be in the direction you planned, but that is OK. Every market and industry is different, so it is important to make the decision early on about how hands-on or hands-off you are going to be when guiding the discussion. It is a balancing act about putting topics out there that will get people moving and shaking and then hanging on to see where it goes.

Angela Garrison

Angela Garrison is a product marketing specialist with Mercy R&D, a multidisciplinary research and development group located in Springfield Missouri which works to create better medical devices and innovative, affordable solutions to problems healthcare institutes face. She is responsible for Mercy R&D’s external communications including: social media, marketing and public relations. Prior to joining Mercy R&D she worked in the public relations office at St. John’s Health System, which is part of Mercy Health, the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S.

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Oct 18th, 2011

Applying Electrospinning Technology to Develop Next Generation Contact Lens

Nearly 40% of all war injuries are eye injuries, yet these injuries are often considered secondary to life-threatening wounds. Ophthalmologic treatment can be delayed by as much as three days. There is a need to develop solutions that can be administered immediately in the field to delay corneal damage until the patient reaches a hospital where surgery is available.

The Corneal Wound Repair Program at Mercy R&D is grant funded by the Department of Defense to develop front-line use products that can save damaged corneas and preserve eyesight after blasts and chemical injuries. During this polymer series, Dr. Kumar Vedantham, a research scientist with Mercy R&D, will discuss the different polymer systems, why polymer size does matter and the method of electrospinning for polymer fabrication as they relate to corneal wound repair research.

Mercy R&D is using electrospinning technology to synthesize a wide range of polymer fibers impregnated inside contact lenses for delivery of drugs to eye injuries suffered in the battlefield. This is a unique approach, as previously no efforts have combined the drug delivery capabilities of polymer fibers with a contact lens. We have successfully fabricated 15 different kinds of electrospun nano/micron size biocompatible polymer fibers inside contact lens material for treating injured corneas. This effort by Mercy R&D will potentially lead to development of next generation contact lenses that house polymer fibers which can help treat a wide range of eye disorders by delivering specific therapeutic agents.

A useful “matrix based” paradigm for drug delivery:

Of all the shapes, a polymer in fiber-like shape is an interesting approach that has gained recognition due to its ease of production and biological significance. Fibers in nanometer range mimic in size and form collagen fibrils within the extracellular matrix. Cells have been shown to interact favorably with fibers as small as 5 nm with documented cellular adhesion, proliferation and migration.

Currently polymeric fibers can be produced by three techniques:

  1. Electrospinning
  2. Self-assembly
  3. Phase separation

Of these, electrospinning is the most widely studied technique and also seems to exhibit the most promising results for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. Self-assembly and phase separation methods have disadvantages, requiring more time and a complicated processing system. Electrospinning is a simple one-step, top-down process for fabricating nanofibers, and the co-processing of polymer mixtures and chemical cross-linking can be carried out, which provides a variety of pathways for controlling the chemical composition of the nanofibers.

Unique features of electrospinning

Additionally, electrospinning seems to be the only method that can be further developed for mass production of continuous nanofibers from various polymers.

Polymer nanofibers possess unique characteristics, such as:

  • Extraordinary high surface area per unit mass (for example, nanofibers with ~100 nm diameter have a specific surface of ~1000m2/g)
  • Remarkably high porosity
  • Excellent structural mechanical properties
  • High axial strength combined with extreme flexibility,
  • Low basis weight
  • Cost effectiveness

How electorspinning technology works

Polymeric micro or nano sized fibers can be produced by applying an electric potential to a polymeric solution. The solution is held at the tip of a capillary tube by virtue of its surface tension. The electrical potential applied provides a charge to the polymer solution. Mutual charge repulsion in the polymer solution induces a force that is directly opposite to the surface tension of the polymer solution. An increase in the electrical potential initially leads to the elongation of the hemispherical surface of the solution at the tip of the capillary tube, to form a conical shape known as the Taylor cone. A further increase causes the electric potential to reach a critical value, at which it overcomes the surface tension forces to cause the formation of a jet that is ejected from the tip of the Taylor cone. The charged jet undergoes instabilities and gradually thins in air primarily due to elongation and solvent evaporation. The charged jet eventually forms randomly oriented nanofibers that can be collected on a stationary or rotating grounded metallic collector. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME)

Kumar Vedantham received his Doctorate in Industrial and Physical Pharmacy from Purdue University in 2009. He joined Mercy R&D in February 2011 and has experience in drug delivery from polymer systems and associated pharmacokinetic studies. His research interest involves working on the interface of biomaterials and drug delivery for controlled release applications.

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Oct 11th, 2011

Physician Invention Cuts Surgery Time

A newly patented device may decrease operating room time on a very common surgical procedure. The placement of skin grafts is commonplace in burn and reconstructive surgery. Until now, there hasn’t been one standard tool that surgeons can use when applying skin grafts. Following last month’s lab tests at Mercy Research there’s good reason to believe GraftOn Skin and Tissue Applicator may one day be in every operating room.

Applying skin grafts can be challenging, largely due to trapped air or fluid bubbles beneath the graft, which can cause the graft to fail. “Currently, our only way of getting fluids out from under the graft is to take a sponge or gauze, roll it and try to squeeze out the fluid from under the graft,” explained Bharat Shah, MD, FACS, a Mercy plastic surgeon and inventor of GraftOn. With the GraftOn instrument, surgeons roll out air or fluid bubbles under the graft and don’t have to keep changing instruments,” he said.

The three components of the GraftOn include a foam applicator, which is essentially a roller, an ergonomically designed handle that is smooth on one side for smoothing the graft’s edges and a grip tool on the other side for fine tuning.

Last month’s lab tests compared the speed of placing a skin graft using the instruments most doctors use today with R&D’s GraftOn applicator. In both cases, the test was conducted 50 times, resulting in statistically less time to place the graft with the GraftOn device.

The model of product development at Mercy R&D is unique in that physicians bring their ideas for a new product which is then translated by the R&D team into a functional prototype. “I can start out with an idea, but I don’t know how to make something out of that idea. I need the R&D team to help me develop that idea into something that’s real.”

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Sep 29th, 2011

Mercy R&D tests Hands First effectiveness versus alcohol based sanitizers

Mercy Research and Development (R&D) medical director, Roger Huckfeldt MD, along with senior scientist, Phillip Finley, PhD, recently conducted a study testing Hands First sanitizer against the standard alcohol-based sanitizer currently used at St. John’s Hospital. The study was performed on the medical staff at St. Johns’ Spine Center. Dr. Huckfeldt is hopeful the Hands First sanitizer will show a significantly lower recontamination percentage over the alcohol-based sanitizer, thus decreasing infection rates and increasing overall patient outcomes.

Mercy R&D is integrated with St. John’s Health System in Springfield Missouri. This integration allows for seamless testing of products and devices developed in the R&D labs back in the healthcare setting. End-user testing ensures development of a technically sound, market viable product that also meets a clinical need.

Hands First sanitizer, developed at Mercy Research and Development, is an alcohol free foaming sanitizer that is proven 99.99% effective at killing harmful bacteria and viruses. Skin protectant Allantoin provides temporary relief for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, while hydrating ingredients provide needed moisture to the hands, eliminating the drying effects of alcohol based sanitizers.

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Sep 9th, 2011

Unique R&D Model Allows Doc to Test Prototype

Members of Mercy Research and Development (R&D) conducted a lab test to compare the speed of placing a skin graft using the current tools such as pick-ups, rolled towels and wet q-tips with the newly invented GraftOn Skin and Tissue applicator.

GraftOn was developed to provide surgeons one standard tool for placing a skin graft. Currently, there is no standard tool used by surgeons for graft application. The newly patented device will allow surgeons to more efficiently address the challenges associated with applying skin grafts such as excess fluid buildup, wrinkles in the graft and poor graft adherence.

The model of product development at Mercy R&D is unique in that physicians bring their ideas for a new product which is then translated by the R&D team into a functional prototype. The prototyped device is then used for testing in the clinical setting to insure the design meets the need of the end user.

“Developing a functional prototype allows us to actually test the device to prove that what we believe should happen actually does happen”, said Dr. Roger Huckfedlt, Medical Director of Mercy R&D and the physician who tested the GraftOn. “The ability to use this device and track the data is a critical piece that is going to be used by medical practitioners across the country.”

For more information about GraftOn Skin and Tissue Applicator visit:

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Jul 6th, 2011

Chocolate Chip Polymers

Nearly 40% of all war injuries are eye injuries, yet these injuries are often considered secondary to life-threatening wounds. Ophthalmologic treatment can be delayed by as much as three days. There is a need to develop solutions that can be administered immediately in the field to delay corneal damage until the patient reaches a hospital where surgery is available.

The Corneal Wound Repair Program at Mercy R&D is grant funded by the Department of Defense to develop front-line use products that can save damaged corneas and preserve eyesight after blasts and chemical injuries. During this polymer series, Dr. Kumar Vedantham, a research scientist with Mercy R&D, will discuss the different polymer systems, why polymer size does matter and the method of electrospinning for polymer fabrication as they relate to corneal wound repair research.

Over the past two decades scientists have acknowledged that “Innovative pharmaceutical treatments require innovative methods of administration.” This perception led to the discovery of various new approaches that control the rate and period of drug delivery (i.e. time-release medications) and target specific areas of the body for treatment that have become increasingly common and complex. The reason to deliver drugs using targeted delivery or deliver in a controlled fashion is to overcome the challenges of lack of bioavailability at the target site commonly encountered in traditional oral or injectable drug formulations.

The goal of all sophisticated drug delivery systems, therefore, is to deploy medications intact to specifically targeted parts of the body through a medium (i.e. polymer) that can control the therapy’s administration by either a physiological or chemical trigger. To achieve this goal, researchers are turning to advances in the worlds of micro-and nanotechnology. During the past decade, polymeric microspheres, polymer micelles, hydrogel-type materials, and polymeric fibers have all been effective in enhancing drug targeting specificity, lowering systemic drug toxicity, improving treatment absorption rates, increasing patient compliance and providing protection for pharmaceuticals against biochemical degradation. In addition, several other experimental drug delivery systems show exciting signs of promise, including those composed of biodegradable polymers, dendrimers (so-called star polymers), and electroactive polymers.

From both a financial and a global healthcare perspective, finding ways to deliver costly, multiple-dose, long-term therapies in an inexpensive, potent and time-releasing or self-triggering formulations forms the nucleus for strategizing the next generation of drug delivery technologies.

Polymers, polymers, everywhere

Polymeric materials still provide the most important avenues for research, primarily because of their ease of processing and the ability of researchers to readily control their chemical and physical properties. Two broad categories of polymer systems have been studied: reservoir devices and matrix devices. Both reservoir and matrix systems are highly complex, and can be described in great detail with copious amounts of scientific jargon. However, I prefer to describe them using two of my favorite sweets: a Hershey kiss and a chocolate chip cookie.

We are all familiar with the silver foil that encases a Hershey kiss, protecting the chocolate contents (and delaying the inevitable!). A reservoir device is very similar, as it involves the encapsulation of a pharmaceutical product within a polymer shell, storing the agent for use once “unwrapped.”. On the other hand, the chocolate chip cookie holds the smaller chips securely throughout the sweet dough. The chocolate is carefully placed to properly distribute the chips throughout the cookie, ensuring each bite is perfect. Like the cookie, a matrix device is a system that physically entraps a drug within a polymer network, ensuring that the entire network can be influenced by the particular agent. No matter which snack is your favorite, both are very important for the future of our research.

Mercy Research & Development is currently developing a polymer based matrix platform that can administer biological agents in a controlled manner to stabilize the cornea until the patient reaches a hospital for further surgical treatment. The goal is to incorporate polymer fibers into a contact lens to engineer the delivery of antibiotics and/or steroids at a controlled rate to help stabilize and further prevent damage to cornea after injuries in the battlefield. The research team is developing a biocompatible electrospun-polymer-nanofiber-based platform that will have the capability to deliver any biological agents at a controlled rate in the cornea. The use of nanofiber in combination with a contact lens is a unique approach for ophthalmic drug delivery.

Kumar Vedantham received his Doctorate in Industrial and Physical Pharmacy from Purdue University in 2009. He joined Mercy R&D in February 2011 and has experience in drug delivery from polymer systems and associated pharmacokinetic studies. His research interest involves working on the interface of biomaterials and drug delivery for controlled release applications.

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Dec 15th, 2010

St. John's doctor invents sight-saving products for traumatic eye injuries

St. John's doctor invents sight-saving products for traumatic eye injuries SISTERS OF MERCY HEALTH SYSTEM

Dr. Shachar Tauber is the son of a soldier who lost his sight on the battlefield. So he understands the pain and obstacles blind veterans face today.

"I lived with it," said Tauber. "My dad was blinded when he was 17 in the Israeli independence war. A shell fragment took out one eye and ruptured another."

Tauber, an ophthalmologist at St. John's Medical Research Institute in Springfield, Mo., is at the forefront of efforts to develop new products to protect the sight of current and future generations of soldiers who suffer traumatic eye injuries far from sterile operating rooms. The products he develops will be of use in civilian emergency rooms and operating rooms too.

The U.S. military is involved in two wars that have made the improvised explosive device, or IED, a household word. When bombs, mines and IEDs sever limbs and cause life-threatening internal injuries, or serious head injuries, more likely than not, the explosions also damage eyes.

It's been estimated that about 40 percent of war injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq impact the eyes. The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research reports 16 percent of all casualties involve distorted vision or blindness. That's the highest rate of battlefield eye injuries since the Civil War.

Protect now, treat later Medics and doctors focus on life-threatening injuries in the first crucial hours and days after a soldier is critically wounded. Tauber's research recognizes that reality and places an emphasis on reducing infection risk and stabilizing corneal injuries for later treatment. The products he is developing include glue and a lens that provides temporary protection for the eye.

"These patients tend to be amputees or traumatic brain injuries," said Tauber. "If we can say, 'don't worry about the eye. We've got it covered with glue or a contact lens. You do what you need to do, and we'll be here when you need us,' that's not a bad place to be."

The Department of Defense sees the promise in that approach and has awarded Tauber and the St. John's Medical Research Institute $4.8 million to create products for treatment of traumatic eye injuries and to conduct research on eye injuries. The grant is the institute's first federal contract, and the work will be done in partnership with the U.S. Army, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Springfield's Missouri State University and the University of Colorado.

But even with the casualty-driven urgency and research funding in place, the complex work cannot be rushed. Dr. Roger Huckfeldt, medical director of the institute, said it could take two to four years for Tauber's work on medical contacts and corneal glue to yield market-ready products. Inveno Health, the institute's for-profit commercialization unit, will hold the patents that come out of the work. (See "St. John's institute brings out the inventive side of health system.") The military will get special purchase considerations, Huckfeldt said.

Another Tauber invention funded by the DOD grant is a high-tech thermos for carrying amniotic membranes. The membranes can be used for first aid and for follow-up care of injured corneas. The thermos is essentially ready for commercialization.

Huckfeldt said that the thermos will keep the biomaterial at an optimal chilled temperature, and thus keep the membranes safe and viable for longer even in extreme desert and mountain temperatures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tauber explained that the amniotic membrane melds on the eye, eliminating the need for sutures, which can scar the eye. "If you can get these amniotic membranes on these kids and noncombatants within the first hour or two (after injury) you're going to change the long-term viability of that eye."

Back in the U.S., he expects civilian hospitals to use the chiller to transport organs harvested for transplant.

Collecting soldiers' tears In addition to the chiller, Tauber is developing drug-permeated contacts out of polymer fibers that have been spun using an electric charge. He also is creating drug-dispensing corneal glue.

His first-aid lens is intended for insertion by a medic in the field. It will release a protective drug in the first one to three days after the injury or until the soldier can have a laceration sutured or glued by an ophthalmologist. The second lens under development is intended for use up to three months after surgery. It will release a different constellation of medications to advance the healing process.

"Right now patients need eye drops every one or two hours. You can imagine how difficult that is in an ICU," said Tauber. "These lenses would deliver drugs over a longer period, which will really help multi-injury patients."

Tauber's corneal adhesive could be applied as soon as possible after an eye is lacerated to seal a wound and prevent infection, reduce pain and start healing.

"Instead of spending two to three hours in a field hospital sewing up the eye, we anticipate this glue, made of a nanofiber material impregnated with drugs, can be applied in a short 15-minute procedure," said Tauber. "We'll be able to the send the eye in a much more stable way so it isn't at risk of rupturing. We're trying to change the paradigm."

Tauber also will study the tears of American soldiers to better understand how different injuries impact the eyes.

"These injuries are pouring out proteins," said Tauber. "We don't know what they are. But we know they change as the eye recovers, so, we can have biomarkers that we can test. We'll make a library of what normal is, and then we'll come back with all of the injuries and map against the injuries."

Walter Reed Army Medical Center will be supplying the tears, which are easy to obtain, and plentiful.

Catholic Health World December 15, 2010 Volume 26, Number 22

Copyright © 2010 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States For reprint permission, contact Donna Troy or call (314) 253-3450.

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Dec 15th, 2010

St. John's institute brings out the inventive side of health system

Catholic Health World December 15, 2010 Volume 26, Number 22

St. John's institute brings out the inventive side of health system By JUDITH VANDEWATER

Doctors are problem solvers by nature. Dr. Roger Huckfeldt suspects that, like him, many doctors have lists of ideas for inventions sure to make them more adept at critical points in procedures or make life easier for patients.

Yet most community doctors don't have the time or connections to transform good ideas into prototypes and products. They file away their notes and product sketches and never pursue them. Huckfeldt's working to change that.

As medical director of the St. John's Medical Research Institute at St. John's Health System in Springfield, Mo., his goal is to make it easier for aspiring inventors to see their ideas through to fruition.

The nonprofit St. John's institute is focused on advancing practical solutions to work-a-day challenges in health care delivery and disease prevention.

When the institute was launched three years ago, it gathered under its auspices all the research being conducted throughout the St. John's system. "We thought if we put it all together, it would be more efficient and we could really grow the business of medical research so that we could find new solutions for some of the problems that we saw in our patients as well as in patients across the country," Huckfeldt explained.

One need not be a star medical researcher or successful inventor to catch the attention of the institute. Huckfeldt routinely entertains ideas from clinicians and other employees of St. John's Hospital and other hospitals in the St. John's system whose credibility as idea generators comes from practical experience in their profession or craft.

Some of the projects involve bench science; others translate bench discoveries to bedside application and some are conceived for direct-to-consumer sales. The institute also is engaged by pharmaceutical companies to manage St. John's participation in late-stage drug trials, Huckfeldt said.

Drug companies reimburse St. John's for clinical trials, but the bulk of the institute's budget comes from the health system, which provides it with an annual allowance commensurate with the projects the institute has under development. Huckfeldt said it can cost well over $1 million a year to operate the institute's research labs.

The business plan calls for revenues from product licenses and direct sales to make the institute self-sustaining within a few years' time. The institute tries to keep about 25 products and projects in its pipeline and hopes to launch one product a quarter. Private, federal and state grants are expected to provide an ongoing contribution to development capital.

Making a market Last year, a state grant helped launch Inveno Health, the institute's for-profit commercialization arm. Inveno Health's two-person staff is tasked with conducting market analyses of proposed products and figuring out the best way to deliver products to market. In some cases, the institute will develop the product as far as it can, then license it for final development and commercialization. In other cases, it will develop the product, brand it and sell it directly to the end user.

Matt Price, Inveno Health's operations manager, said when a product creates a new product category, Inveno Health likely will prove the invention's worth and work out any kinks by testing it within the Sisters of Mercy Health System, the parent system of St. John's. Currently, Inveno Health is working to raise the institute's profile within the St. John's and Mercy health systems to grease the tracks. "We almost have to sell the research end of what we are doing here, and that allows us to 'sell' the product" to product testers and early adopters, said Price.

He said this strategy will be used to prove the merit of a positioning platform invented by a Springfield plastic surgeon. The doctor wanted a device to keep an infant from shifting during cranial reconstructive surgery while giving the surgeon 360 degree access to the baby's head. Dr. Bharat Shah, the inventor, also is developing a system of polymer braces and ties to be used to hold a broken jaw in place. The invention will offer an option to the sharp metal wires now in use.

Shah isn't the only inventor to bring multiple product ideas to the institute. About half of the current projects originated with serial inventors. "They've learned how easy we can make the system," Huckfeldt said.

He is a prolific inventor himself. A former trauma and burn surgeon, Huckfeldt has nine projects of his own under development. His long-acting, alcohol-free, skin-softening hand sanitizer, Hands First, went on the market in August and became the institute's first commercial product. It is being sold under a licensing agreement with a Springfield-based manufacturer.

Huckfeldt said the product encapsulates his expertise as a burn surgeon. "My whole life has been taking care of skin," he said. "We wanted to build something that not only lasted longer than anything out there for protecting skin against bad bugs, but, as importantly, provided protection for the skin. Your hands should feel better at the end of the day than they do in the morning, and that is certainly not what we see in health care workers who have to use alcohol-based products, 20, 30 or 50 times a day."

Dr. Bruce Hedgepeth, a radiologist colleague, came up with the idea for another device that Inveno Health will bring to market in the near future — a plastic sleeve that pops the cap off a tracer chemical vial or liquid pharmaceutical while maintaining a sterile field. The sleeve creates a protective barrier between the nurse or technician who holds the vial for the physician and the needle the physician uses to draw fluid into a syringe.

Getting started Huckfeldt said that nine out of 10 ideas brought to the institute have originated with St. John's medical staff or employees.

To get the review process going, inventors fill out a disclosure manifest listing everything they have thought about in connection with their proposal. "This is to protect them," Huckfeldt said. He reviews the idea or product proposal and initiates a discovery process.

The staff at Inveno Health analyze whether there is enough sales potential for the institute to recover its projected development costs. "Sometimes the answer will be no, but we'll do it anyway" if it fills an important need, Huckfeldt said. There is a patent search, a scientific background search and a literature search, all paid for by the institute. An inventor need bring no cash to the table.

An operating group reviews the results from the discovery stage and considers whether the project is a good one for the institute.

Huckfeldt said that questions asked include, "Do we have the capability to do it? Is it something that really needs to be done? And, can we afford to do the project?"

If the institute decides to move forward, it works out an agreement with the inventor. "We try to make it easy for them to stay involved, and if we keep them actively involved, we are much more likely to be successful," Huckfeldt said. However, he added, "We believe if a product is successful, we should compensate the inventor even if they just bring us an idea and they are not able to help with the creation or testing or any of the follow-up."

The institute covers the cost of research and patent filings. Inventors "have zero risks, and we have a more-than-reasonable payback to them that starts once we've recouped all of the costs of the research," he said.

Cora Scott, director of media relations for St. John's Hospital, said the channel for staff inventions "is good for physician recruitment and retention. This really is a physician satisfier," she said.

Copyright © 2010 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States For reprint permission, contact Donna Troy or call (314) 253-3450.

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Oct 26th, 2010

Research program based in Springfield puts eye repair in sight

Department of Defense awards $4.8 million to St. John’s to deliver solutions for eye-injured soldiers. Weapons of war in Iraq have inflicted serious eye injuries to soldiers on the battlefront. The military's search for new and better ways to treat eye traumas has led it to a Springfield, Mo. doctor and his high-tech work. Dr. Shachar Tauber and the research team at St. John’s Medical Research Institute, have received a $4.8 million Department of Defense grant to develop front-line use products that can save damaged corneas and preserve eyesight after blast and chemical injuries.

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Aug 20th, 2010

School teacher gives St. John’s doctor idea for better way to clean hands

A school teacher and a hospital unit nurse gave St. John’s Medical Research Institute Medical Director Dr. Roger Huckfeldt the idea for Hands First, a new alcohol free hand sanitizer developed by the Institute’s team of scientists. The product will be released nationwide following a launch event 6:30 p.m. at Millwood Golf & Racquet Club in Springfield, Mo. Aug. 23.

“The teacher asked me why there wasn’t an alcohol-free hand sanitizer available that lasted from the time we put it on the kids’ hands in the morning to the time they came back in from recess,” Dr. Huckfeldt said. “Having to reapply sanitizer was both time consuming and expensive.

The unit nurse questioned, “Why can’t you create a hand sanitizer that is skin healthy, doesn’t burn or dry out our hands, protects cuts and scrapes that we have and lasts a long time?”

“As a surgeon, I am constantly worried about the dangers of infection. Alcohol hand sanitizers help reduce that risk, but I really understood the frustrations people have with those currently on the market. That frustration got me thinking…..there has to be a better way.”

So Dr. Huckfeldt and the St. John’s research and development team, housed in the Institute’s lab facilities inside downtown’s Jordan Valley Innovation Center, set upon a solution.

The result is a foam product formula that kills greater than 99.99 percent of common germs AND cleanses and hydrates the skin while providing temporary protection for minor cuts, scrapes and burns.

“While other products claim lasting protection, they really only prevent bacterial regrowth and do not provide lasting protection from the recontamination that occurs with contact with hands, pencils, phones, solid surfaces,” Dr. Huckfeldt explains.

In lab testing, the patent-pending technology has been shown to kill over 99% percent of bacteria that were placed on test subjects’ hands three hours after they use a single application of the new foam.

Hands First uses a combination of ingredients including an extremely gentle surfactant to cleanse the skin, skin healthy all natural moisturizers, FDA approved skin protectants to provide real protection for cuts and scrapes and antimicrobial agents coupled with skin safe compounds to make them last longer. .

Dr. Huckeldt tested the formula against MRSA and other bacteria often considered the harshest of superbugs. The test results show kill rates far exceeding the 99.99 % required by the FDA with only 15 seconds of contact time..

“It basically killed everything we tested it against,” Huckfeldt explained. “When I saw it fought MRSA, Psuedomonas and even cold and flu viruses, I thought maybe we were on to something.”

The product is being bottled Airemaster in Nixa and will be available at retailers across the country and retail locations in Springfield and the surrounding area.

“National ‘big box’ retailers have also showed a lot of interest,” Dr Huckfeldt said. “And with the launch of a nationwide infomercial we’re expecting more to come on board.”

The product is also sold at Inveno Health is the commercialization unit for St. John's Medical Research Institute and is responsible for the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of products created through the Institute.

St. John's Health System established the St. John's Medical Research Institute (SJMRI) to further the mission of providing excellent health care to the communities they serve, with a special emphasis on assisting the economically challenged. The St. John's Medical Research Institute works closely with clinicians and co-workers to identify areas of patient care that could benefit from improvement. In turn, they strive to create innovative, affordable solutions to problems that they and other healthcare institutions face on a daily basis. As these solutions are tested and validated, they are passed on to Inveno Health for introduction into the healthcare, institutional and retail markets.

St. John’s is part of Mercy – Sisters of Mercy Health System –the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and includes 30 hospitals and more than 1,300 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

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Aug 17th, 2010

Alcohol-free hand sanitizer to be available in Joplin area stores

A challenge from a teacher prompted the St. John's Medical Research Institute in Springfield, Mo. to create an alcohol free hand sanitizer.

Creators say the new foam, called Hands First, will not dry like alcohol and includes cleansers, natural ingredients like aloe, to condition hands while killing germs.

Doctors say the problem with alcohol based hand sanitizers is that their effectiveness is gone minutes after the alcohol evaporates.

"We tested it at three hours," says Dr. Roger Huckfeldt, the Director of the St. John's Medical Research Institute. "We brought in human volunteers, put it on hands, waited three hours, and then put 5.4 trillion bacteria on their hands. Then collected the bacteria that were still alive and still killed 99% of the bacteria, even at three hours."

Doctors say Hands First will not dry skin like alcohol, is fragrance free and is not sticky like some products.

"Self drying cleansing agent in it so it also cleanses as well as sanitizes then lasts a long time, doesn't sting, feels good, benefit to people who should use sanitizers all the time - that's most of us," Dr. Huckfeldt says.

Dr. Huckfeldt says good hand washing is still important but sanitizer protects in between times, when you touch the phone or shake hands.

Hands Free will hit the market next Tuesday and will be available at area stores.

In Joplin:

                    * St. John's Medical Equipment Company
* Wilkinson Pharmacy
* Health Essentials
* Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy
* Food 4 Less
* Price Cutter Pharmacy (also in Carthage and Webb City)


In Neosho:

                    * Country Care Pharmacy


By KOAMTV, Joplin, MO

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Aug 16th, 2010

Springfield Leads the Way in Developing Long-lasting Hand Sanitizer

Throughout our daily lives, all of us come into contact with millions of bacteria and germs. Next Monday, St. John’s Medical Research Institute will unveil its first commercialized product, which they say will revolutionize the way we stay germ-free. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann went to the laboratory where the product was created, and has more.

Glass containers are just a few of the research items found in the lab. The laboratory is located at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center downtown. The St. John’s Medical Research Institute is releasing a hand-sanitizer that it says is longer lasting, and is actually good for the skin. Dr. Roger Huckfeldt is medical director for the institute. He says that although hand-sanitizers are nothing new, this product is designed with aloe, vitamins, and skin conditioners to hydrate rather than dry out the skin.

“And then we wanted one that would last a long time. And that challenge actually came from a school teacher who wanted to be able to provide some protection for her kids’ hands from the time they got into the classroom, to the time they went to recess. This way when they were high-fiving each other, picking up dirty pencils, coughing, licking their hands, that they had some layer of protection without constantly having to reapply the product [hand-sanitizer],” said Dr. Huckfeldt.

Huckfeldt says that this product is unusual because it acts as a cleanser, not just a sanitizer. It’s designed to work for up to three hours against most common bacteria. He says it does not sting like other hand-sanitizers do, because it provides a layer which guards minor skin abrasions, cuts and scrapes. Huckfeldt says that although there are products available that claim to be long-lasting, they only protect against bacteria re-growth, not new contamination.

“We tested that by bringing in human volunteers to test the product. We had them use the product and wait three hours without touching anything. They could not touch their face; they could not touch the desk. And at the end of three hours we put 5.4 trillion bacteria on their hands. And we found that even at three hours we killed 99.9 percent of bacteria we had just placed on their hands,” said Huckfeldt.

The new hand-sanitizer is a foaming product and comes in a variety of sizes. Huckfeldt says that although it may cost more per bottle than current hand-sanitizers, the cost per application will be the same since this one is longer lasting.

“Everything that we have done with the product so far has come out of local work like our graphic arts folks, our bankers, and our legal side. Our manufacturing is done in Nixa at Airemaster and they will be doing our mixing and bottle-filling,” said Huckfeldt.

Huckfeldt says while the product will released locally at first, plans are underway to ultimately take the product nationwide. The name of the product is “Hands First.” For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

Written by Theresa Bettmann.

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Aug 14th, 2010

Missouri surgeon credited with two inventions

SPRINGFIELD — Bharat Shah has known he wanted to be a doctor since he was in eighth grade. "I checked out a book on anatomy from the library, and I read it and checked it out again and again," Shah says. He just didn't know he'd end up an inventor, too.

Shah, a St. John's plastic surgeon, has come up with a new way to wire a patient's jaw shut that is being developed by Inveno Health, which is the commercialization arm of St. John's Medical Research Institute. The new jaw wiring should be available within a year.

Inveno Health was established in 2009 with a grant from the Missouri Life Science Trust Fund, says Matt Price, operations manager. Inveno Health helps with the research, manufacture, marketing and distribution of products that are created by St. John's medical experts, like Shah.

Jaw wiring

The new jaw wiring method — which uses plastic instead of stainless steel — is safer for patients and medical staff, Shah says.

When a jaw is wired shut, the wires are literally twisted by hand and the wires can poke through a medical glove and cut staff, exposing them to bacteria and diseases such as HIV.

"It puts us at risk," Shah says.

The new method is more like braces that hold the jaw in position and clip together.

"It gives the same stability without the wires," he says.

When a patient's jaw is wired shut, if they have to vomit, which can happen after anesthesia, the patient has to have someone cut their wires with wire cutters. The new plastic device can be severed with household scissors.

There's a comfort issue, too. "It's like having a mouth full of barbed wire," he says of the old method.

The idea for this came to him in 2001, but he didn't pursue it because inventions are complicated and can be expensive to develop.

Once Inveno Health came along, which gives doctors a platform for their inventions, he pursued it.

And he hasn't stopped there.

Another one of his inventions, a bed used to secure an infant during surgery, will be ready for patient use by the end of June, and a prototype has already been used in surgery at the hospital.

This invention will significantly cut the time an infant has to be sedated during certain surgeries.

The longer he's a doctor, the more he recognizes problems and thinks, "I can't believe we don't have something to make this easier."

And there are more ideas in the works.

"Now I can't stop," he laughs. "They (staff at Inveno Health) get a text from me saying 'I have another idea.'"

Inveno Health

Keela Davis, technical research director, says developing a product is a continual process, but it starts with a good idea and a solution to a problem.

Once the medical expert explains their vision, the Inveno team begins the research: they see what's been published, if there is a similar product or an existing patent, where it can be manufactured, pricing and if the product will work.

If they decide to develop the product, they meet with engineers and scientists to develop a prototype. Then, they work on tests, more prototypes and patents.

The doctor or inventor is constantly involved in this process, and they work as a team so there are no surprises at the end, says Shah.

Inveno Health will either sell the product or find a company to license and sell it for them.

Finally, a product has to go through FDA approval, so getting a product on the market is a lengthy process, explains Price.

They have 20 active products in development with 30 others waiting to be developed, and products run the gamut, Davis says.

"The market is coming to us," Price says. "The nice thing about this is there is already a problem and solution, so you know there is a need for the product they're introducing to the market. With other products, you have a product and hope there is need or people will buy it."

The concept of Inveno Health is somewhat unusual, though something similar is available at The Cleveland Clinic and a few other places, says Davis.

It's an excellent resource for doctors and other health care professionals who see needs in health care settings and are now able to introduce solutions to address those needs, Shah says.

BY JULIANA GOODWIN/The Springfield News-Leader

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Aug 13th, 2010

Doctor in Springfield MO gets FDA okay to sell new hand sanitizer

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A new hand sanitizer will soon hit store shelves nationwide. Hands First was developed by a doctor here in the Ozarks, and he touts it as safer than similar products.

Dr. Roger Huckfeldt, medical director of St. John’s Health System, says the big selling point is you are less likely to re-contaminate. He says, with most hand sanitizers, you kill germs on contact but quickly re-contaminate your hands when you touch something else. Huckfeldt says Hands First provides, basically, a thin film that will eliminate re-contamination.

The product hits store shelves locally on Aug. 23, then goes nationwide in just a few more weeks. Huckfeldt says there's no need to apply this one multiple times; one time every three hours or so will do the trick.

"Whether you touch a keyboard, a pencil, shake another person's hands -- you're re-contaminated with bacteria. Other products say they last four to six hours but really what they do is protect you from re-growth of bacteria. They don't protect you from re-contamination. We wanted a product that you didn't have to reapply so often,” he said.

Huckfeldt says he worked on the product for a year and just got Food and Drug Administration approval last week.

It will be in Price Cutter, Grove Pharmacy, Family Pharmacy, Fox Grape and a few other stores. It costs about the same as any other brand of hand sanitizer.

Not too long ago, the risk of alcohol poisoning with hand sanitizers was a big problem for young kids. Huckfeldt says this product is safe and non-toxic, with no alcohol, and was tested safe for both babies and elderly people, even if kids somehow ingested it.

By Sara Forhertz, KY3 News

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