Following closely on the heels of GCMI’s work with Georgia Tech and others to design, produce and deliver hundreds of thousands of PPE face shields to frontline health workers, Georgia Tech and GCMI have combined their resources to help solve another critical shortage in healthcare: hand sanitizer. 


Alarmed to discover a looming shortage in isopropanol, a critical ingredient in common hand sanitizer, a group of scientists and researchers led by Seth Marder, a regents professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, convened to discuss what alternatives existed. If so, were those resources readily available? What was needed in terms of refinement or chemistry? What else would be needed to ensure the product could be used in healthcare? What regulatory approvals would be needed and how would it be funded? Lastly and most importantly, how does the team get the end product to the people who need it the most?


“When I worked for Kimberly-Clark, getting a new product out would take the company nine to 18 months, and the three of us had to get this done in weeks,” said Georgia Tech Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Chris Luettgen in the article. “The demand was there, and people were getting sick in some cases from lack of sanitizing.”


The team saw an opportunity to solve the problem, but over the counter “monograph” products (of which hand sanitizer is considered one) must still comply with FDA requirements, including registration, labeler codes and listing, before sale or distribution. The team needed another layer of medical product development and go-to-market expertise.


Dr. White contacted Sherry Farrugia, chief operating & strategy officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Technology Center at Georgia Tech for help in moving the product from idea to production and ultimately product delivery to those in need. Sherry connected Dr. White with GCMI’s CEO, Tiffany Wilson who allocated resources for product development pathway expertise including regulatory clearance requirements and distribution. GCMI provided regulatory oversight and funding for the hand sanitizer through Aflac’s recent $2 million gift intended to help frontline healthcare workers stay safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.


“Georgia Tech is about the power to convene. Companies and stakeholders are eager to come to the table here to make things happen,” said Dr. George White, Interim Vice President of Georgia Tech’s Office of Industry Collaboration.


We hope you will enjoy this story of creative ingenuity and collaboration as reported by Georgia Tech Research Horizons.


Image credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore

Update: As of June 15, 2020, 7,000 gallons of hand sanitizer has been distributed to healthcare workers in the state of Georgia and the U.S. GCMI has also produced and delivered more than 1.8M face shields to help protect our healthcare workers across the country thanks to the Aflac gift as well.


We want to thank author Ben Brumfield and Georgia Tech Research Horizons for sharing this inspiring story and special thanks to the entire team for their knowledge, hard work and spirit of collaboration without which this would not have been possible.