For Northwell 3D, the Q-tip of the innovation iceberg

Nose to the grindstone: His inventive division was made for crises like COVID-19, says Todd Goldstein, Northwell Health's director of 3D design and innovation.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A 3D-printed nasal swab created by a multistate academic-industry collaboration is up to snuff, and has begun circulating through resources-strapped healthcare facilities.

Northwell Health – partnering with the University of South Florida and Massachusetts-based additive-manufacturing expert Formlabs – has successfully tested prototype swabs meeting federal standards for COVID-19 testing.

The swabs, comprised of “biocompatible autoclavable resins” from Formlabs’ stocks and based on initial designs out of USF’s 3D Clinical Applications Division, underwent key “validation testing” – including 24-hour, 3-day and important leeching protocols – at facilities operated by University of South Florida Health, a sort of Northwell-Lite with about 1,000 providers scattered around the Sunshine State.

Rapid clinical testing followed at Northwell Health facilities and USFH’s Tampa General Hospital, ultimately concluding that “the 3D-printed nasal swabs perform equally to standard swabs used for testing for COVID-19,” according to Northwell.

With clinical validation complete, the swabs are being rapidly reproduced by Northwell Health and USFH 3D printers, with about 1,500 swabs cranked out daily and deployed throughout the two busy health systems.

Todd Goldstein, Northwell Health’s director of 3D design and innovation, said the “global health crisis” that is COVID-19 is exactly the kind scenario his division was created to address.

“When we saw that the testing kits were limited in supply, our 3D printing lab immediately changed focus from creating materials for surgeries to designing and creating materials that help our frontline healthcare providers treating COVID-19 patients,” Goldstein noted, adding the speedy scientific response matched the novel coronavirus’ prolific spread.

“In one weekend, we worked together to develop a nasal swab prototype and test it in the lab,” he said. “After our positive testing results, we then immediately went to work and have already started producing 1,000-1,500 swabs per day.

Charles Lockwood: Go team.

“We are also proud to be sharing the design with other institutions that can 3D print, so that patients across the country can benefit from our work.”

Formlabs CEO and co-founder Max Lobovsky said his 2011 startup has been “working around the clock to provide assistance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic” and was proud to partner with Northwell – a frequent ally – and USFH on the swab stratagem.

University of Southern Florida Health Senior Vice President Charles Lockwood, meanwhile, called the collaboration “a prime example of the incredible impact we can have on human lives when teams of experts across academia, healthcare delivery and the tech industry come together.”

“During this current COVID-19 outbreak, there is little time for delay,” Lockwood said in a statement. “The swift, agile and adept action of everyone on this effort will greatly improve this nation’s ability to test patients.”