By Scott Meacham
Great ideas and great companies don’t go away during times of crisis. Many just require a little more nurturing. Other businesses recognize that with quick action and a bit of a pivot, they can not only survive a crisis, but that they can actually improve the situation.
MaxQ, a Stillwater company that creates sophisticated packaging systems for blood and other biologics, is one of our portfolio companies. MaxQ’s packaging systems are especially designed to hold and transfer refrigerated, controlled room temperature or frozen biological materials, such as red blood cells, whole blood, platelets, or plasma, as well as tissue specimens and organs.
When the implications of COVID-19 began accelerating in February, CEO Saravan Kumar and the team at MaxQ immediately began assessing the potential impact on their business. At the time, the company was in nearly 450 hospitals in the U.S. and another 10 internationally.
“Initially, we wanted to understand the market level changes and how to adapt our plans,” Kumar said. “We quickly realized the need for antibody testing, and that our product designed to move blood inside of hospitals and diagnostic labs, and across the country, could move patient specimen kits (COVID19 swabs), reagents, and (Convalescent) plasma.”
MaxQ is a made-in-USA company with a resilient supply chain. In the first week of February, the company reached out to suppliers.
“Everyone came together to source the materials we needed,” Kumar said. “We adapted our manufacturing and assembly, increased shifts, set up A and B teams for social distancing, and ramped up our inventory.”
In less than two weeks, MaxQ reconfigured three products to launch specific solutions for coronavirus-positive patients. One of those is an instant activation pouch solution with an integrated temperature control that was designed to help hospitals’ in issuing single-units of blood to COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 medical teams need to collect and transport many, many temperature-controlled blood specimens rapidly from dispersed locations. The process requires an in-place inventory of transport boxes, gel packs and tons of ice. The challenge is matching the correct number of all the components required to send the available specimens to the appropriate lab in four hours or less. It’s a logistical nightmare.
With the MaxQ STAT pouch, a simple squeeze activates the cooling material, and in 15 seconds, the package is ready to go. Medical teams don’t have to plan or coordinate multiple items for testing.
“They grab the bag, crack it open, and send it out on a designated transport,” Kumar said. “It is a single product, designed for a STAT situation. We have relevant technical solutions, a motivated team in-house, and a company culture that is aggressively focused on solving our customer’s challenges in providing highest quality patient care.”
In New York, MaxQ solutions are used to send blood to patients in more than 15 hospitals. In Seattle, MaxQ packages are used to move materials to coronavirus testing sites. Additionally, MaxQ stepped up by adapting processes and materials to make face shields with plans to supply community hospitals and first responders in Oklahoma who are having difficulty sourcing personal protective equipment.
From the first time we met the MaxQ team eight years ago as a student team competing in the Governor’s Cup (now Love’s Cup) to today, this founding team’s culture and vision has been to have a measurable, positive impact on patient safety and healthcare. When we began, we had no idea just how far-reaching that vision would be.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org