Nephron Nitrile is set to start production of nitrile rubber gloves, an important component of personal protective equipment, in West Columbia.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. launched the glove company in July 2021 to help boost domestic production of essential PPE for American healthcare workers.
Early Monday morning, South Korea’s first glove production equipment arrived at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. The shipment included manufacturing lines and will help Nephron Nitrile begin production of the gloves within weeks.
SC Governor Henry McMaster and other state and local officials joined Nephron owner and CEO Lou Kennedy in celebrating the arrival of the shipment. A contingent of South Korean business leaders also attended, celebrating the country’s technology-sharing agreement with Nephron to commission the plant.
Kennedy said the shipment marks a critical milestone for Nephron Nitrile.
“We are thrilled with the arrival of this critical piece of equipment, but more than that, we are grateful for the partnerships – from South Korea to South Carolina – that have enabled us to make effective progress over the past year,” Kennedy said. “Now is the time to start making priceless gloves here in Lexington County.”
The equipment arrived on what airport officials said was one of the largest planes to ever land at CAE: a Boeing B747-8 cargo plane flown by cargo specialist Atlas Air. The flight arrived in Columbia at 6:40 a.m. after making the trip via the South Korean city of Incheon and Anchorage, Alaska.
Kennedy said the successful shipment was the result of UPS and CAE officials working together to help develop the logistics needed to bring such a large aircraft to Colombia.
Nephron Nitrile will produce the gloves at the Kennedy Innovation Complex, Nephron’s facility in the Saxony Gotha Industrial Park.
The molds for the gloves are made by CeramTec, a ceramic and medical technology company with North American headquarters in Laurens.
Kennedy said the pandemic has made her passionate about helping reduce the United States’ reliance on foreign sources for PPE and other healthcare equipment.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals produces and manufactures generic inhalation solutions and sterile prefilled syringes through its 503B outsourcing facility. Its CLIA-certified lab, which conducted COVID-19 tests for its employees and workers at nearby businesses, ran out of PPE as the pandemic disrupted global supply chains last spring.
Kennedy and other company officials decided to start manufacturing nitrile gloves because gloves were a universal need in many industries.
“At the height of the pandemic, nobody had enough gloves — nurses, clinicians, food workers,” Kennedy said. “That’s when we decided we had to do something to bolster the US supply.”
The glove shortage also drove prices up drastically, driving a box of gloves that regularly sold for around $3 a box to $30, Kennedy said.
Once Nephron Nitrile is operational, the plant will produce approximately three billion nitrile gloves per year.
Kennedy said the goal is to have the first line of gloves complete and ready for testing by the end of September and then receive Food and Drug Administration approval by the end of November.
Contact Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.