Ben Franklin 4 PA
Morning Call: Ben Franklin investment funds to aid companies creating technology to fight COVID-19
By ANTHONY SALAMONE
THE MORNING CALL
JUN 26, 2020 AT 4:31 PM
Founder Katy C. Worrilow and LifeAire Systems in Upper Macungie Township is awaiting federal approval of an air-decontamination unit that the company says kills bacteria, fungi and viruses, including COVID-19, from N95 masks. The Upper Macungie Township company has been approved for $100,000 from the local Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the organization recently announed in its latest funding rounds totaling nearly $2 million for 35 companies.
The nearly $2 million in public money will help early-stage companies under Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania that have struggled since the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of those dollars are going to companies directly working in the fight against COVID-19, as regional leaders seek to ramp up funding in life sciences and health technologies.
Bethlehem’s Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania earlier this week announced nearly $1.84 million in disbursements to 35 companies. Some $1 million of it came from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for COVID-19 relief efforts.
Ben Franklin spokesperson Laura Eppler said Friday the organization made “emergency investments” to respond quickly to applicants who sought funding because they had become cash-strapped during the pandemic.
Eppler said some companies received support to continue to research toward advancing their businesses and technologies. Others pivoted to produce services that, while maintaining their businesses, allowed them to address the pandemic.
One of the recipients which has shifted, LifeAire Systems LLC of Upper Macungie Township, is awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval on a decontamination unit that the company says kills bacteria, fungi and viruses, including COVID-19, from N95 masks. The company says a unit can decontaminate up to 8,500 masks a day.
Ben Franklin approved $100,000 investment to LifeAire, which typically makes specialty air-purification systems for used in hospitals, nursing home and life sciences industries.
US Specialty Formulations LLC CEO Dr. Kyle Flanigan (right) speaks about his company that manufactures sterile injectable pharmaceuticals with Gov. Tom Wolf during a "Jobs that Pay" tour at TechVentures in Bethlehem, Pa., in this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo. (APRIL BARTHOLOMEW / THE MORNING CALL)
US Specialty Formulations LLC, which is at Ben Franklin’s TechVentures incubator facility on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus, is receiving $75,000 toward supporting logistics and equipment purchases to expand an analytical lab to meet the demand for preclinical materials used in a COVID-19 vaccine.
All told, Ben Franklin put $1.4 million toward the emergency investments in 18 regional startups and another $404,000 for 17 manufacturers. The funding for the startups came as zero-interest loans, while manufacturers received matching funds, Eppler said.
Go to nep.benfranklin.org for more information, including news releases on the investment recipients. The local Ben Franklin serves 21 counties.
In other news, Ben Franklin President and CEO R. Chadwick Paul Jr., who announced Jan. 21 that he planned to retire as of Wednesday, has agreed to stay on until the organization finds a replacement, Eppler said.
She said no timetable has been set for finding Paul’s replacement, and the search is continuing. Paul, who has been CEO since 2002, is expected to stay on as a consultant.