The recent collaborations between Wake Forest Baptist Health and two leading apparel manufacturers to design face mask products highlights how the health system has been able to develop new and innovative relationships to benefit people across the country, especially as mandates to wear face coverings have been widely implemented, including in North Carolina.
Wake Forest Baptist teamed up with Renfro Corporation to design and manufacture the Nightingale™ Mask for consumers, and with Kitsbow on the Wake ProTech by iQ Healthtech™ Reusable Face Mask for front line workers in critical industries.
Both endeavors were enabled through iQ Healthtech Labs, Wake Forest Baptist’s new healthtech business enterprise operated through the Innovation Quarter. It was formed recently to facilitate partnerships between outside industry and the anchor institutions that exist within one of the leading innovation districts in the world.
“It’s no longer enough to just have a wealth of knowledge and expertise centrally located in innovation districts like the Innovation Quarter. We have to intentionally translate that knowledge and those ideas into initiatives that will ultimately benefit people,” said Jane Shen, PharmD, head of sector development for the Innovation Quarter. “iQ Healthtech Labs helps do that through partnerships like the ones we have formed with Renfro and Kitsbow to bring high quality masks to the market during this critical time.”
The development of both masks also leveraged the expertise of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Best Health for Business team, led by Bill Satterwhite, M.D., J.D., the health system’s chief wellness officer. Satterwhite’s team came together to start prototyping masks within days of government stay-at-home orders, then paired with Renfro and Kitsbow to advance their designs to the marketplace.
“Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, our internal research identified a wide range of efficiencies in face masks, both homemade and commercially manufactured,” Satterwhite said. “We were delighted to join our clinical and research knowledge with the design and manufacturing expertise of these companies and to utilize our relationships within Innovation Quarter and iQ Healthtech Labs to develop comfortable and attractive masks that we have confidence in as health experts.”
Collaborations like these are facilitated through the mixed-use aspect of the Innovation Quarter, and nowhere is that more pronounced than in Bailey Power Plant, which now houses the iQ Healthtech Labs amidst multiple companies and experts. Satterwhite’s Best Health for Business team is located on the fifth floor of Bailey Power Plant, and Renfro has offices in the second floor Innovation Suites.
This proximity helps yield the types of collaborations that can lead to healthtech solutions like the recent masks.