Protective Equipment Remains Crucial Even as Concerns Slowly Abate

Protective Equipment Remains Crucial Even as Concerns Slowly Abate

PR Newswire

NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 2021

FinancialBuzz.com News Commentary

NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite the high number of newly infected people, concerns from the pandemic are slowly receding. Thanks to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, optimism of the fight against the virus has increased, as states have begun to or plan to re-open and businesses are getting ready for a return to work. Nevertheless, many employers are facing a new challenge: determining how to create a safe work environment for employees while enforcing the still necessary social distancing measures. The pandemic and the measures taken to contain it has resulted in companies across the U.S. see plunging demand and record unemployment. Yet, for some sectors, this is an opportunity. For example, the digital health sector is going through a period of strong growth as the transition to remote services has been significantly accelerated. In the meantime, the importance and adoption of personal protective equipment (PPE) by the public has helped prevent even higher numbers of infected. NEXE Innovations Inc. (TSX-V: NEXE) (OTC: NEXNF), 3M Company (NYSE: MMM), WELL Health Technologies Corp. (TSX: WELL) (OTC: WLYYF), CloudMD Software & Services Inc. (TSX-V: DOC) (OTC: DOCRF), Owens & Minor, Inc. (NYSE: OMI)

Some PPEs are reviewed by the FDA before they can be legally sold in the United States. The manufacturers have to show they meet specific criteria for performance, labeling, and intended use to demonstrate substantial equivalence. The global personal protective equipment (PPE) market was valued at USD 52.7 Billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 92.5 Billion by 2025 while growing at a CAGR of 8.7% during 2020-2025, according to VynZ Research. Developments have also been made in the testing segment, as diagnostic testing has improved over the course of 2020. Now, various companies from a vast field of industries, including biotechs, medical device manufacturers, tech conglomerates and others, have all made available various products or services related to the pandemic.

NEXE Innovations Inc. (TSX-V: NEXE) (OTC: NEXNF) just announced breaking news that it, "has begun the development and prototyping of a compostable disposable facemask (the "NEXE Mask") in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In developing the NEXE Mask, NEXE will leverage existing collaborations in polymer science, plant-based materials, and municipal composting that were utilized for its NEXE pod. To support this goal, NEXE has also initiated new collaborations with leaders in healthcare and personal protective equipment (PPE).

NEXE has developed initial prototypes and will focus on creating a fully functional compostable disposable facemask that meets international healthcare standards in the coming months. The space required for manufacturing can be easily accommodated in NEXE's newly expanded production facility, and several new hires in engineering roles are anticipated as part of the project. The Company aims to complete a functional prototype in 2021.  With funds raised under the December 2020 financing and received under warrant exercises, NEXE has sufficient funds to complete the development of the NEXE Mask.

It is estimated that more than 100 billion facemasks1 are currently being disposed of every month as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. The vast majority of these are made from non-compostable polypropylene, requiring decades or centuries to break down and leaving microplastic pollution behind. While they are a key tool in the fight against COVID-19, these disposable masks also create significant landfill waste or contaminate lakes, rivers, oceans, and soils. The global market for disposable masks exceeded $70bn USD in 2020,2 more than double the size of the market for single-serve beverage pods.

'With this project, NEXE is finally able to showcase our innovation platform, leveraging our battle-tested experience in handling plant-based materials technologies to confront plastic waste in the healthcare industry,' said CEO Darren Footz. 'Masks save lives, but there has to be a more sustainable solution. We've built the skills and technologies needed to confront this problem, and are excited to open up a new dimension to our business.'

NEXE will leverage established collaborations with the Surrey Biofuels Facility, one of Canada's most advanced composting centres, and Dr. Zachary Hudson, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry at UBC. Hudson also serves as Chief Scientific Officer of NEXE, and his lab at UBC is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for materials characterization and design.

"Our goal is to develop a disposable facemask that is made from plant-based materials without compromising on safety or comfort. By engaging with leaders in materials science, compostability, PPE manufacturing, and healthcare, NEXE aims to apply our technologies to one of the world's fastest-growing sources of plastic waste. We are excited to share more about our technologies and partnerships in the short term," said Hudson.

1 J. C. Prata, A. L. Patrício Silva, T. R. Walker, A. C. Duarte, T. Rocha Santos, Environ. Sci. Tech. 2020, 54, 7760.

2 Grand View Research. Disposable Face Mask Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Protective, Dust, Non-woven), By Application (Industrial, Personal), By Distribution Channel, And Segment Forecasts, 2020 - 2027. 2020

3M Company (NYSE: MMM) reported back in December that it has joined the UN in its efforts to raise awareness of epidemic preparedness using science-based information and best practices for disease prevention and response. During the pandemic, 3M has worked closely with governments and the private sector in over 70 countries to assist in efforts to help protect their citizens, health care workers, first responders, and essential workers against COVID-19. In many of those countries over the last two decades, 3M has worked on epidemic preparedness and response initiatives including PPE stockpiling programs. "Our hope is to be of service to governments in developing national programs to help protect heroic frontline health care workers, emergency responders and other essential workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other future events," said Denise Rutherford, 3M's senior vice president of Corporate Affairs. "3M is sharing information on its global observations of PPE stockpiling best practices as a key pillar of epidemic preparedness. We're eager to work with governments to serve the national health needs of all essential workers."

WELL Health Technologies Corp. (TSX: WELL) (OTC: WLYYF) announced in December that via its Tia Health subsidiary, has partnered with a leading national medical laboratory to provide eligible patients with online medical consultations and requisitions for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Antibody Testing. Through its partner, WELL is offering a highly accurate blood test to provide information on the SARS-CoV-2 immune response in previously diagnosed patients and to help identify individuals who have been exposed to the virus but not diagnosed with molecular testing. Such tests are available with a doctor's requisition and determine the presence of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) antibodies in a patient's blood. "We are very pleased to be providing this Health Canada approved Antibody Test," said Dr. Michael Frankel, Chief Medical Officer of WELL.  "We believe these approved COVID-19 Antibody Testing procedures offer great accuracy in detecting the presence of antibodies related to COVID-19.  In some cases, patients may not have been officially diagnosed but would be interested in knowing if they have been exposed to the virus and that they have antibodies."

CloudMD Software & Services Inc. (TSX-V: DOC) (OTC: DOCRF) reported last week that it has expanded its mental health services into the United States. Snapclarity Inc. ("Snapclarity"), CloudMD's mental health solution is now available for providers and corporations (B2B) in the United States through its proprietary technology app, providing individuals with direct access to clinical assessments that: support risk and diagnosis, provide an immediate connection to care that allows individuals to self-manage, create responsive coping mechanisms and control symptoms through the delivery of personalized therapeutic support. There is an immediate demand for mental health services in North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 in 5 residents in the U.S. report struggling with mental or behavioral health issues associated with COVID-19 pandemic, including anxiety, depression, increased substance use, and suicidal thoughts.

Owens & Minor, Inc. (NYSE: OMI) announced back in September an increase in full year 2020 earnings guidance. The Company is revising its outlook for full-year adjusted net income from $1.00 to $1.20 per share to adjusted net income of $1.75 to $1.90 per share. The Company expects that foreign currency will have a minimal impact on adjusted net income per share for the full year. The increase in earnings guidance is primarily a result of deployment of PPE related production equipment in the U.S. ahead of schedule and other factors. "I continue to be very proud of our teammates' ability to rapidly bring additional, U.S.-based PPE production online ahead of schedule and increase product output. This is enabling us to continue to reduce the gap between customer demand and supply," said Edward A. Pesicka, President & Chief Executive Officer of Owens & Minor.

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