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Charleston Business

Partnership keeps coronavirus supplies and cargo moving at CAE

By L. C. Leach III

While passenger travel has declined considerably at South Carolina airports due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the moving of equipment, materials, supplies and other freight to all parts of the world has continued almost unhampered at Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) – thanks to a collaboration between the airport, Nephron Pharmaceuticals and United Parcel Service (UPS).

Shortly after the worldwide illness hit South Carolina in March 2020, the three groups teamed to ship vital medical supplies to patients and Covid-19 hot spots around the country.

Nephron, for example, based in Columbia, S.C., has added hand sanitizer and drugs for respiratory inhalation therapy to its existing production portfolio. In March, the company shipped over 25,000 pieces – plus 143 million doses of nebulizer solution – out of CAE to hundreds of hospitals across the U.S. And since April, the company has increased these shipments to more than 30,000 pieces and 85 million nebulizers each month.

“The only way we have been able to meet the demands of increased orders is by working together with partners like UPS and CAE,” said Nephron CEO and owner Lou Kennedy. “We are grateful for our partners, and we are grateful for the opportunity to play an important role in the nation’s response to the pandemic.”

Nephron’s specialty is in blow-fill-seal (BFS) manufacturing, a technology that allows a vial of medication to be formed, filled and sealed in a continuous process without human intervention in a sterile, closed area.

And as part of its continued service during the pandemic, the company has also offered Covid-19 testing services, donated more than 100,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the University of South Carolina, and partnered with InfuTronix Solutions LLC, to deliver a non-narcotic therapy solution for post-operative pain management.

At the same time, UPS increased the number of company-owned and chartered air freighter flights by more than 185 in response to customer orders. The company is shipping test kits, personal protective equipment and other supplies necessary to help slow coronavirus cases across the world.

“In times like these, we are all the more proud to support healthcare organizations like Nephron,” said Dan Gagnon, vice president of UPS healthcare marketing, “and deploy our capabilities to help get much-needed medicines, equipment and supplies into hospitals and clinics where they can save lives.”

Helping supplies regularly get to the right places has never been more important than right now for Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

With cargo shipping being a principal part of its operations, CAE serves as the South Carolina home for UPS operations. In 2019, the airport’s overall cargo shipments totaled 76,194 tons – an 11 percent increase over the previous year.

Mike Gula, executive director of CAE, said that keeping the cargo moving – especially coronavirus supplies – has been a key success in the partnership with UPS and Nephron.

“The robust cargo operation in place at CAE is one that many aren’t aware of or fully know the economic impact it has on the region and state,” said Mike Gula, executive director of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. “CAE serves all of South Carolina and even portions of surrounding states. Key businesses benefit from the proximity to CAE, including Nephron and others, but even small businesses in the business-to-business and business-to-customer e-commerce space require these logistics networks to succeed in today’s economy.”