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Robotic liquid handler to speed USC COVID-19 testing

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A robotic liquid handler donated to the University of South Carolina by Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. will help the university process more COVID-19 tests as USC prepares to reopen its campus to students this fall.

The new Opentrons robotic liquid handler, donated by Nephron owners and USC alums Lou and Bill Kennedy to the school’s College of Pharmacy, will increase the amount of tests USC can process each day, according to a news release from Nephron.

Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy (Photo/Provided)“Stopping the spread of this deadly virus and returning to normal begins with reliable, accurate testing,”  Nephron president and CEO Lou Kennedy said in the release. “That’s why we are excited to be working together with the very best researchers in the world, who call our great university home, on expanded COVID-19 screening as the entire state continues to re-open.”

USC researchers have been developing a COVID-19 testing procedure for the past few months, according to the release.

“In the upcoming months, the university will be multiplying and operationalizing high-capacity testing, making it freely available to all students, faculty and staff,” Phillip Buckhaults, USC associate pharmacy professor, said. “This will help us identify those who are positive for COVID-19, who often do not know it, and they can better plan to quarantine and protect vulnerable people.”

West Columbia-headquartered Nephron develops and produces generic inhalation solutions and suspension products, including those used to treat respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19. The company also operates a 503B outsourcing facility which produces pre-filled sterile syringes and IV bags for hospitals nationwide and recently opened a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified diagnostics lab.

“The University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy is grateful to Lou and Bill Kennedy and Nephron Pharmaceuticals for our strong and meaningful collaborations,” Stephen J. Cutler, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said. “The university will benefit tremendously from this generous gift during the implementation of the university’s risk mitigation plan as we repopulate our campus.”

Nephron is also donating more than 100,000 bottles of company-manufactured hand sanitizer to the university.

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