The University of South Florida (USF) has been awarded the Patents for Humanity award by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for its patent of the 3D printed nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, which was created in the early part of the pandemic as a solution to the disrupted commercial production of standard flocked NP swabs critical in diagnostic testing for COVID-19.
USF earned this recognition for its innovative solution to the commercial NP swab shortage. Due to the urgent need worldwide, the 3D printed NP swab team decided to forgo monetization of their invention and provided the design files and clinical data at no cost to hospitals, clinics, and licensed medical device companies around the world as long as the swabs were produced for their own use.
Over the span of one week, in March 2020, teams from USF Health, Northwell Health, Tampa General Hospital, and Formlabs worked together to develop a 3D printed swab prototype using Formlabs’ 3D printers and biocompatible, autoclavable materials. The prototypes were then benchmarked against standard flocked swabs for viral sample retention in the laboratory and tested for patient safety and comfort by USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine researchers. After passing these tests, the teams initiated a multisite clinical trial at dozens of hospital sites across the United States – comparing the performance of the 3D printed nasopharyngeal swabs with flocked swabs.
The USF/Northwell design was then shared with hospitals, health systems, the military, and clinics around the globe. To date, the USF-patented design for the 3D printed nasopharyngeal swab has been shared with institutions in more than 60 countries that have produced more than 100 million swabs.
“Our goal from the start was to help as many people as possible, as fast and safely as possible,” said Summer Decker, Ph.D., professor in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, and director for 3D Clinical Applications in USF Health’s Department of Radiology, who led the 3D printed NP swab team. “In order to do that, we assembled a team of experts in our fields and worked together toward a real-world solution. We then made our files public so that any hospital, clinic, or health system could print them for their own facilities and get them to the frontline of COVID-19 testing in patients. Only when you know what you are truly facing, in this case, COVID-19, can you actually fight it. This swab was a critical, missing component of the global medical community’s ability to do just that. We are very humbled by this recognition by the US Patent and Trademark Office for our efforts and very grateful for this incredible opportunity to help not just USF Health and Tampa General Hospital, but also other hospitals and medical centers throughout the world.”
“COVID-19 demanded innovation and collaboration, not only from those on the front lines but across industries,” said Todd Goldstein, Ph.D., director of 3D Design and Innovation at Northwell Health. “It’s an honor to receive this recognition from the US Patent and Trademark Office and we hope that our 3D printed nasal swab design helped alleviate burden during the height of the pandemic and showed what cooperation, even in times of crisis, can achieve.”
“We were proud to unite with USF Health, Formlabs, and Northwell Health to work quickly and collaboratively to save lives during the height of COVID-19 when swabs were in short supply and in such high demand,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. “This recognition is a true testament to not only the power of academic medicine, but the hard work, sacrifice, innovative spirit, and perseverance of our clinical teams and their ability to act quickly and think strategically. We are thankful for the partnerships we developed with other health leaders to find innovative and cost-effective solutions to protect the health of our region and beyond.”
“With quick thinking and action from USF Health, the global shortage of traditional nasopharyngeal swabs was minimized with an entirely 3D printable design that could be easily printed in healthcare facilities around the world,” said Gaurav Manchanda, director of Medical Market Development at Formlabs. “We were honored to help in this effort and pleased to see the reliability, scalability, and accessibility of our 3D printing solutions put into action. By combining the centralized quality, regulatory, and medical manufacturing expertise at Formlabs with a decentralized production network of global medical customers, local health institutions were able to print and use millions of swabs needed during the shortage. Formlabs is proud to be recognized alongside USF Health, Northwell Health, and Tampa General Hospital in the USPTO Patents for Humanity COVID-19 category.”