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Panama City’s biotechnology lab sanitizes to combat COVID-19

By Katherine Mapp | NSWC PCD Public Affairs | April 22, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. —

Amid COVID-19, the global demand for hand sanitizer has reached unprecedented levels. The Biotechnology Research and Development Laboratory (BRDL) team at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) is rapidly delivering hand sanitizer solutions to help personnel stop the spread of the virus.

DeAnna Pedersen from NSWC PCD’s procurement branch was finding it increasingly difficult to locate and purchase hand sanitizer for mission personnel that needed to travel in support of the fleet. Pedersen reached out to Dr. Josh Kogot, NSWC PCD biochemist, for a solution. After becoming aware of the challenges and the need for hand sanitizer to provide safety for the NSWC PCD team, Kogot offered the BRDL’s expertise and support.

Kogot and Dr. Travis Hand, NSWC PCD scientist, produced an immediate batch of sanitizer within two hours of request, and delivered it to the team prior to their departure.

Kogot, Hand, and Jeff Eichler from NSWC PCD’s BRDL, are continuing production of hand sanitizer in the lab to provide the needed amount for the workforce and other emergent needs. The initial production will yield up to 20 gallons within a two-day period.

“NSWC PCD’s mission is critical to the defense of our country. In order to ensure the safety of our mission essential personnel, hand sanitizer has become critical,” said Dr. Josh Kogot, NSWC PCD biochemist. “Not being able to purchase hand sanitizer commercially has required NSWC PCD to produce it from raw chemicals.”

Dr. Keith Aliberti, NSWC PCD science and technology department head, said during these unprecedented times, alcohol-based hand sanitizer recommended by the CDC has become critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“The World Health Organization expects healthcare professionals alone will need approximately 9.2 billion gallons of sanitizer in one year.  According to Arizton Advisory and Intelligence, prior to COVID-19, worldwide production of sanitizer was just under 800 million gallons per year,” said Aliberti. “Hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol so that it can kill germs – it does this by denaturing protective outer proteins of viruses and microbes thereby dissolving their membranes.”

NSWC PCD’s BRDL is a state-of-the-art laboratory that conducts cutting-edge research on the use of biotechnology to address complex technical problems related to the littoral battlespace. The laboratory is staffed with seven personnel that have expertise in chemistry and biochemistry and contains a fully equipped wet chemistry laboratory. The expertise in the laboratory and their ability to respond to urgent needs made it the ideal facility to respond to the unavailability of sanitizer.

The combined efforts ensure that the NSWC PCD team can maintain a safe working environment by having access to hand sanitizer when hand washing isn’t possible.