Texas Tech University

Hub Tenant Startup Helps in Front Line Battle Against COVID-19

Innovation Hub Team

April 20, 2020

Eshell and its parent company Atwill Medical Solutions are shifting production to make crucial products for public-facing professionals

A Lubbock-based startup entrepreneur is contributing more ammunition for the battle against COVID-19.

Angus Jackson is the CEO of Eshell Skin Science, a Texas Tech University Innovation Hub tenant. He's also Director of Business Development for Eshell's Wisconsin-based parent company, Atwill Medical Solutions. Both biotech businesses are leveraging their combined facilities, staff, and resources to help medical and laboratory professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson says, "One of our missions is to bring things to market to ease the burden on the medical system. We have the chemists, the clean rooms, the capacity, and all the required FDA licenses to make hand sanitizer, generic drugs, and testing components. Changing our manufacturing production during this outbreak makes sense. We can easily do that. There are many public-facing workers in a variety of industries right now, and we want to help keep them as safe as they can be."

Bottles and machinery Eshell has been using for its products are now being utilized for the hand sanitizer Atwill is manufacturing at its Wisconsin facility.

Jackson says, "A lot of the hospitals and doctors that we already sell medical devices and biotech products to told us they've really needed hand sanitizer. We've also sold to delivery companies, trucking companies, and others like that. Before we started even making hand sanitizer, we had sold half our production capacity of about 1,000 gallons for our first run."

Jackson says while the recipe for making hand sanitizers is simple, there are some requirements. "I've seen a lot of social media posts about mixing vodka with aloe vera gel and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, most alcohol is not a high enough percentage to kill the germs and bacteria."

The FDA, CDC, and World Health Organization have all issued emergency guidance documents for making hand sanitizers that they believe would kill the current coronavirus. They advise effective hand sanitizers must be about 190 to 200 proof alcohol, or at minimum, 60% alcohol by volume.

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Jackson says, "We were lucky enough to order a large amount of ethanol from our supplier just before they sold out. It's pretty easy to make, and there will be more available soon. We're also trying to source other high proof alcohols that meet the current requirements. We have plenty of hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. So as long as we can get the alcohol, we'll keep making hand sanitizer and selling it."

Jackson says Atwill's price tag of $61 per gallon covers the product's cost of manufacturing.

Atwill is shifting production to make other things, as well. Jackson says, "We have a lot of different chemicals at our Wisconsin plant. One of our main products is a chemical called CHG. We use it to disinfect catheters. It can also be used to kill bacteria and germs. So we'll be making a soap out of that." Atwill has begun to manufacture some of the chemicals needed for COVID-19 testing kits. It's also looking into drug compounding. "Once we hear some clear results back on drugs that work for coronavirus, we're going to start making those drugs, assuming that they can be made generically," Jackson says.