Responding to a Crisis: Ohio Tech Steps Up in a Pandemic
With a worldwide crisis swirling around us, Ohio startups and businesses aren’t slowing down. Instead, they’re stepping up.
The most innovative, creative, entrepreneurial state in the Midwest is working hard to solve this international crisis, and Ohio companies are proving that their passion for innovation doesn’t stop during a pandemic.
Whether it’s education software, connecting loved ones or providing healthcare, Ohio companies are at the forefront of technology, and they aren’t backing down from the current challenge.
Here are just a few startups across the state who are taking the battle against COVID-19 as an opportunity to fight back, improving lives and making Ohio an inspiration for the rest of the country:
Before the pandemic panic began, Sharonville biotechnology company Airway Therapeutics was building momentum. In January, the company announced that it had raised another $15.5 million to help develop a drug to prevent and treat serious respiratory and inflammatory diseases.
Now, they’re turning their sites on COVID-19.
The company is partnering with the National Institutes of Health to evaluate whether a protein replacement therapy they’re developing could treat the virus. CEO Marc Salzberg told the Cincinnati Business Courier that the current outbreak “has illuminated the urgency to identify and explore new therapies for patients in need.”
He said the company doesn’t have a timeline for development just yet, but wants to begin clinical studies this year.
You probably know them for their craft beers, brewpubs and innovative hotel, but Scotland-based Columbus brewery BrewDog is making itself an extremely important central Ohio resource.
The company announced March 18 that they would begin manufacturing “Brewgel,” their very own hand sanitizer, at their Scottish distillery. Instead of selling it, they’ll be giving it away to those in need.
We are bottling our sanitiser today. Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's Intensive Care Unit got in touch to tell us that they out of sanitiser. So we are delivering to them, for free, this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/Tv7wqyqeIT
— James Watt (@BrewDogJames) March 22, 2020
In addition to keeping hands clean, they’ve established a drive-through and offered a 50 percent discount to emergency services workers. They’re also using their trucks and drivers to deliver school lunches to those in isolation for no charge.
In a time of major need, ScriptDrop has been working around the clock.
Last week, the company launched its patient-initiated delivery solution years ahead of plans. The announcement will take the company from regional to national, a major step and a huge benefit to patients across the country.
The story has already been picked up by the likes of Forbes and Columbus Business First, who have said ScriptDrop’s new services will help patients “avoid potentially crowded brick-and-mortar locations during the outbreak.”
ScriptDrop has always put #patient needs first. When #COVID19 hit the United States, we realized we were confronted with a choice: to help the few or challenge ourselves to help the many. Read more: https://t.co/aONQNh7iIE#delivery #healthcareIT #Pharmacist pic.twitter.com/e0QKtoRZWJ
— ScriptDrop (@ScriptDrop) March 24, 2020
CEO Nick Potts said multiple Ohio organizations have reached out to help ScriptDrop achieve its mission for free.
“They know that our team is being asked to scale what would have taken three years in less than a few weeks,” he told Business First. “This community is absolutely incredible!”
This Columbus startup is known for spinning out of NASA to create a 3D food printer system that works on complex dessert designs, personalized nutrition and personalized pizzas, among other concepts.
But during the pandemic, BeeHex is shifting its production.
The company announced last week that it would be using its manufacturing power to 3D print mask frames and re-shape them to fit people’s faces. The masks will be sent to hospitals and other crucial destinations, where they’ll be wrapped in filtration material. BeeHex may even add that last step to its process.
COO Ben Feltner also has plans to stop the next pandemic. The company recently submitted a proposal to the USDA to build a machine that 3D prints muscle, tissue and skin from animal cells to replicate the look, feel and taste of meat. The printer would use cell-growth technology to replicate real cuts of meat.
“If we make the switch from animals to growing animal cells and 3D printing meat products, we can prevent disease outbreaks,” he wrote. “The COVID-19 virus is not the first disastrous outbreak and, if we don’t make lifestyle changes, it won’t be the last. Taking sanitation and hygiene seriously will help, but we have to stop this problem at the source and prevent animal-to-human transmission. If we work together and invest in new technologies, we can make it happen.”
We Can Code IT
During the coronavirus crisis, We Can Code IT is continuing to help students, especially those whose jobs have been affected by layoffs and work stoppages.
The Columbus startup provides coding bootcamps aimed at improving diversity and inclusion, and they’re offering free starter web development modules to the public to help people learn new tech skills while they’re stuck at home. Those interested can sign up at wecancodeit.org/reskill.
We Can Code IT is also offering virtual coding bootcamps called RemoteCode using the same approach as their in-person classes, with the added benefit of a remote atmosphere. Potential students whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19 can receive up to $2,000 in grants and scholarships from the company, and the We Can Code IT team has been working closely with employers and government officials to help everyone access funds to retrain as software developers.
Cincinnati startup Abre is stepping up in a big way. The company has been pioneering digital education tech for years, and in this important moment they’re making themselves a crucial resource for schools.
Abre’s tech was developed by educators to bring together digital resources and help teachers and schools spend less time and energy worrying about managing their services and focus on their students.
The company has made its award-winning Abre Hub available for free to schools and districts moving forward. This unprecedented change should help tackle the challenge of moving to remote learning on short notice, a problem facing educators across the country.
Many schools around the US have closed, leaving administrators & teachers seeking ways to connect w/ students. @SIIA has launched solutions for eLearning. Abre is pleased to be part of this resource list.➡️https://t.co/roUvRVBTzX@TechforLearners #AbreMeansOpen #BetterTogether pic.twitter.com/8UsLo6bRrP
— Abre.io (@abreplatform) March 20, 2020
Be sure to check back with TechOhio later this week for a full update on Abre’s big move.
As colleges and universities across Ohio close their campuses and move to online models, Wisr is working overtime to get schools integrated into its platform.
The Cleveland startup creates digital communities to boost student and alumni engagement and provides strategy consulting and online learning opportunities. And amidst the pandemic, they’re moving schools’ programming online and helping prospective students have as normal a college decision process as possible.
Over the last two weeks, the company’s portfolio of schools has doubled, and they’re even expanding their team. They’ve added more than a dozen new schools to their repertoire, and are expanding each day.
Over the past three weeks, demand for live-streaming company BoxCast’s product has skyrocketed. As the world shifts toward staying apart from each other, BoxCast is ready and able to keep people connected to the communities they care about.
The company set up a beginner’s manual to help organizations understand how easy it is for them to get online at www.boxcast.com/start-now.
BoxCast CEO and co-founder Gordon Daily has recently been on a variety of local news features and podcasts, and the company’s tech is being used by a variety of churches, businesses and other organizations to help navigate through the pandemic.
Do you know of an Ohio company who’s doing important work during the pandemic? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.
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