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Charleston Tech Center - Morrison Drive (east) view
FEATURED NEWS

Charleston Digital Corridor Accepting Reservations At The Flagship

The Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC), a multi-faceted initiative focused on building and nurturing the region's tech community, is pleased to announce that reservations for workspace leases at the new tech incubator in downtown Charleston are now being accepted. The 15,000 sq. ft. Flagship on the 2nd floor of the Charleston Tech Center (CTC) offers residents a limited number of flexible workspaces ranging from individual to team office configurations.

The Charleston Tech Center, a 92,000 square foot building of modern architecture was developed specifically to support the robust growth being experienced by tech companies in Charleston, SC. The CTC also positions Charleston to accommodate companies from around the US increasingly seeking to distribute their workforce in a post COVID-19 world. The privately led development of the CTC fulfills a vision many years in the making and includes partners at the local, state and federal government.

The Flagship represents the culmination of over a decade of experience by the Digital Corridor in developing workspaces specifically for the tech sector. Recognizing the evolving mindset of the tech worker, the Flagship offers coworking space reimagined with flexible leases for individuals and organizations with access to amenities including a covered roof top deck, a variety of eateries in close proximity, podcast/recording studio, private nap room and phone booths with state-of-the art medical grade ventilation. Additionally, there are multiple Wi-Fi enabled collaboration spaces inside and in the adjacent park.

"Our success continues to be driven through the provision of a unique set of resources sought by early-stage and growing companies. The development of the Flagship allows us to extend our support to a broader and more diverse group of tech companies in this new era of social-distancing and with a focus on employee safety. The CTC will serve as the anchor of the tech community in Charleston, offering a modern and convenient facility to host educational programming, professional training, special events, workshops and networking opportunities," said Ernest Andrade, Director, Charleston Digital Corridor.

"We have a history of working on projects to benefit community. We were excited to partner with the Digital Corridor to develop the CTC, a project where our visions aligned perfectly. The CTC will be accretive to the local tech community for many years," said John Hand, Managing Partner, Iron Bridge Capital Partners.

To learn more about the Flagship, take a tour or make an office reservation, contact Ernest Andrade or call 843.607.1264.

Vikor Scientific Co-founder, Shea Harrelson
LEADERSHIP PROFILE

COVID-19 Testing Fuels Momentum For Vikor Scientific

Shea Harrelson is co-founder of Vikor Scientific, a molecular diagnostics company launched in 2018 in Charleston. Vikor Scientific identifies pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes in patients. In April 2020, the company moved into new office and lab space at Charleston's WestEdge development, built as a hub for life sciences research and collaboration. Vikor has experienced rapid growth this year by offering COVID-19 testing along with its core services.

This series is brought to you by Charleston County Economic Development.

From second grade on, Shea Harrelson planned to be a medical doctor.

But she altered her course and instead became a physician assistant at the urging of her father, who recognized her curiosity and desire to try new things.

"He told me that he was afraid that if I went to med school and went through all of this schooling, that I would eventually feel stuck because I'm always looking around the next corner, and I get bored very easily," Harrelson said. "He encouraged me to go to PA school, to look into that career, because it's a career in which you can change disciplines a lot easier than becoming a pediatrician or a cardiovascular surgeon."

Harrelson calls it the best career advice she has received.

After earning a PA degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, she practiced for nine years in Greenville, S.C., before shifting gears to sell medical equipment for St. Jude Medical. After a few years there, Harrelson felt the urge to start her own company.

She began with a sales team taking medical products to market. That work, coupled with an interest in the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, led her to join forces with her current business partner, Scotty Branch, to found Vikor Scientific in 2018.

The company uses molecular medicine to identify pathogens causing respiratory, gastrointestinal, urinary tract and other types of illnesses. It looks for the DNA makeup of pathogens known to cause the majority of infections in the United States, providing results within 24 hours. The approach is different from the traditional culture methodology that seeks to grow pathogens in a medium.

Vikor also tests samples for a panel of antibiotic resistance genes, helping doctors determine which antibiotic to prescribe.

Harrelson sat down with the Charleston Digital Corridor to discuss her company's work, growth and future.

In your own words, what does Vikor Scientific do?

We help providers detect infections faster and more accurately. For the layperson, that's how they would see this molecular medicine. On the inside, what we do is DNA sequencing of pathogens so that we can figure out what's causing your infection.

The reason that we're here is because, as a provider, I saw the heat that was being put on providers years ago about antibiotic stewardship. You know, "Why can't these doctors prescribe the right antibiotics?" And it always came back on the doctor. "Well, they didn't prescribe the right antibiotic for me." Or, "This buildup of (antibiotic) resistance is because providers are just writing antibiotics like candy."

You kept hearing that, and I thought, "Well, how unfair, because providers don't have the tools to get to the end goal here. What are they supposed to do?" There was culture and sensitivity, that was the only thing that they had out there. You're waiting seven days for something to grow in a petri dish. You're not going to wait and not treat your patient. It was this catch-22, and I felt like they couldn't win.

So that really is what motivated me toward molecular medicine, because providers needed to have a diagnostic that they could get in 24 hours so that they could wait to treat their patients, they could give them the right antibiotic based on their pathogen and resistance that was detected. And you prevented some of those costs or adverse drug reactions or failed therapies, and you had better outcomes for the patients.

How did you meet your co-founder, Scotty Branch?

We were trying to launch a product with a company together that didn't work, but we had time to work together and realized we both had an urgency about us in our work ethic. That was refreshing, because I always felt like no one else did.

And then our skill sets are completely different. That was very complementing to each other when we went out to try to sell the product that we were working on at the time. We noticed that those opposites really worked well in the business realm. We only worked together for a few months, but then when I started pursuing the molecular infectious disease, I gave him a call and asked if he wanted to join me and build this together.

You began in 2018 with a focus on antibiotic resistance, but now COVID-19 testing is a big part of your business. How did you pivot to that?

We were primed and ready. Fortunately, this is what we do. We test for infectious diseases. COVID is one of 250 pathogens that we test.

With COVID, it was at the right time for us because it took a year to build this space out at WestEdge, but it was ready to go and we had just moved in (in April). Without it, we would've not been able to support COVID like we have because we did not have the space at the SCRA building where we started.

WestEdge gave us the whole eighth floor, 22,000 square feet, and then the fourth floor for office space, and then additional room on other floors as we needed it.

Because of that, it allowed us to just soar. The only thing we had to do was validate the assay. We had all of the instruments. We are doing 10,000 to 12,000 tests daily now. We have the capacity for about 20,000 daily. We had a lot of quick hiring and growing to do, but that's one thing that Scotty and I do well. We operate with a sense of urgency and we make fast decisions, and I think that's how we've grown and moved so quickly.

How many employees do you have now?

We have about 240 employees now. Probably about 120 in South Carolina. The others are sales representatives that are employees in the field, in every state other than New York.

You committed to space at WestEdge in 2018. How many employees did you have then?

Twelve. It still makes me a little nervous to think about that conversation. If it was me alone, I probably would've thought a lot more about it. But my partner is definitely a forward thinker as well, so I think together we felt a little more strength in saying yes to that.

How much of your recent growth is from COVID testing?

Definitely all of the new hires are due to COVID. But what COVID has done for us is given us exposure to a lot of different clients – hospitals and nursing home chains – and they've been able to see everything else that we do.

Urinary tract infections are the No. 1 infections in nursing homes, and then respiratory. But now, all we're hearing about is respiratory. COVID has given us the exposure to them, and now they look at everything else, and they start doing other testing and not just COVID.

You just opened a lab in the Philadelphia area as well. What is your strategy with that location?

Serving that state, you get more of the commercial plans around that state from a reimbursement standpoint. We'll probably have a site out West at some point, just to be able to serve those regions better. We can get any sample overnighted with FedEx. Even from Puerto Rico, we get samples. But it's something to be in that region to be able to gain more acceptance from the commercial payers and to integrate yourself into their network.

And just overflow. We learned early on to diversify. If we have a hurricane that takes down Vikor for two weeks, then that would really hurt our business. Obviously, it would hurt anybody's business. Having another site that we could divert all of our samples to, it really protects the business.

**What do you see as the future of your company? **

I think that we will either be taking a new diagnostic to market or moving into therapeutics. I feel like what we're doing now, advanced as it is, is just the base of what we can build on. I definitely feel like in three years, we're looking at jumping from diagnostics to therapeutics so we can really complete the circle there. But I think we will always be in diagnostics.

What connections do you see between your company and local medical institutions?

Dr. Saeed Khan, who is our president of research and development, is now adjunct faculty at MUSC as well as USC in Columbia and Johns Hopkins. He's already talking to them about different opportunities for research and forming committees to help bring the MUSC students over here for internships and fellowships. They're trying to develop that now, which is one thing that we're very excited about. We built an education room for that purpose, to be able to bring in college, undergrad and post-grad students in here to teach them more about what we do in molecular medicine.

One of the hardest things about growing the business that fast is being able to find candidates that have the type of experience that we need. It's just not being focused on so much in schools. From fifth grade on, they're still learning about culture and sensitivity, and that's a far-gone methodology. They should have PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines in all the schools, but it's expensive. That's one thing that I want to do in South Carolina is get PCR machines in schools because it starts so early to get their interest so they do want to go into programs later, so they can learn about molecular medicine and nanotechnology and really the future of where all of our diagnostics are.

Outside of work, what keeps you busy?

Family. Husband, three kids and three dogs. That is full, and that's probably what helps me to stay focused at work. I've really learned how to unplug when I'm away from work, which took me many years to do. That's probably the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur, especially as a woman, a mother and a wife, is everybody needs your time, and they don't need your tired time. They need your good time, your family and your business.

How do you find that? Probably my quietest time of day is on the way to work. I never turn the radio on. I'm either praying or maybe listening to Priscilla Shirer. She rocks my world. She speaks the truth and just gets me fired up for the day. Sometimes I'm just quiet. I think you've got to find that place where you recharge.

Is there a book that you always recommend?

"More Than a Carpenter," by Josh McDowell. I have always loved that book from the time I was in college because it's a simple read but such a profound read. If I had one encounter with someone and wanted to give a book to them, that's what it would be.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Omatic Spotlight

We are pleased to spotlight Omatic, an integration software company built entirely for nonprofits.

  • Company Founded - 2002
  • Total number of employees - 75
  • Fun fact - 30 of 75 Omatic employees share a name with at least one other person in the company.
  • Omatic Software Career Opportunities
Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade

After COVID, a Hub-And-Spoke Office Style Could Become The Norm

Probably the most constant reminder of the lingering effects of COVID-19 is our daily work routine. For most of us who are either not allowed to return to the office or choose not to, each day is a quest to work productively in our home environment while ignoring the unavoidable household distractions. Read more:

Mike Fleck, Wills & Trust Founder

Charleston Start up Launches Last Will and Testament Service

Wills & Trusts, Inc. a developer of online legal and estate planning documents, today launched an easy-to-use website (www.willsandtrustsinc.com), that enables legally-binding estate planning documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney to be created quickly and cost-effectively. The site guides users through an easy, step-by-step process to complete a certified will or trust with prices starting from $79. All plans include healthcare power of attorney, a living will, financial power of attorney, and memorial instructions.

The company, which began operations six months ago and now offers certified documents binding in all 50 US states, is offering a 50% discount during the month of September to those working on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic including teachers, school staff and administrators, healthcare professionals, firefighters and police officers.

The Covid-19 crisis has increased awareness of the value and importance of financial planning, yet studies show the use of basic estate planning tools are becoming less prevalent overall. Caring.com estimates that the number of American adults with a will or another type of estate planning document decreased by nearly 25% since 2017. Its study showed that 78% of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64% of Generation X (ages 37 to 52) do not have a will. Another survey showed that more than half of the 1,100 respondents do not have any estate planning documentation.

"There are many misconceptions out there about estate plans and one of the biggest is that you have to be wealthy to have one," said Mike Fleck, founder of Wills and Trusts Inc. "Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, when a person dies without a will, it can force families into lengthy and costly probate proceedings. If there are not a lot of assets to be distributed this is especially damaging and justifies the importance of having final wishes set out in advance. Putting in place estate planning is protection for your family and security for the future – something so important more now than ever."

Factors such as costs, complexity, confusing jargon and lack of knowledge are causing people to put off or avoid estate planning altogether.****Wills & Trust, Inc. is trying to change these statistics and provide a way to achieve financial security and peace of mind in these uncertain times.****In addition to distributing any assets or wealth upon the passing of an individual, estate plans can also be used for:

  • Distributing family keepsakes, other personal items
  • Preparing for long-term health care needs
  • Designating guardians for minor children and dependent grandchildren
  • Making arrangements for funeral services and final wishes
  • Taking into consideration current inheritance tax rules and other changes

"Our current environment underscores the importance of planning, especially around finances," Fleck continued. "Teachers and first-responders to the Covid crisis are especially at risk, which is why we are offering a special 50% discount to those working on the front lines of the pandemic. We encourage everyone working in education and healthcare along with firefighters and police officers to take us up on this offer."

The THANKYOU50 offer is available to anyone working in a school, hospital and police/fire department and provides a 50% discount off of all plans on the site. Users will need to register during the month of September.

With guidance on the right type of end-of-life planning document each person should consider and practical descriptions of important legal guidelines, willsandtrustsinc.com, removes the legal jargon and confusing terms that prevent many people from moving forward with estate planning. It provides a common-sense guide to how to think about creating the legal documents needed to secure assets, protect love ones and ensure all health care wishes are clearly stated.

One thing none of us like to think about is what happens after we die. As uncomfortable as this is – it is better to plan for it than leave it to fate. The Will and Trusts website analyzes the cost of dying without a will or trust (intestacy) vs. having one's wishes legally documented. Other topics covered on the site include:

  • The difference between a will and a trust
  • Who to choose for a trustee, an executor, healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney – and why
  • Why you need a living will
  • What to think about if you have children

To learn more, the site offers a free estate planning guide.

Beaufort Digital Corridor Station

Beaufort Digital Corridor Finds Strong Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Lowcountry

A new survey from the Beaufort Digital Corridor revealed an interest in developing a diverse economy and fostering an entrepreneurial climate in the Lowcountry. More than 60% of the residents in Beaufort who responded to the survey consider themselves entrepreneurs and want to take a chance and pursue a dream. "The BDC was created for just such a purpose. As Beaufort's premier business incubator, the BDC offers tech entrepreneurs collaboration, mentorship, and a place where dreams meet reality," said Nicie Phillips, Executive Director of the BDC. The survey, conducted during the last half of July and first half of August, gathered input from 232 Beaufort residents. The findings were an exciting mixture of new information and best kept secrets. Here are some key points:

  • Over 85% of the replies showed that people either want to begin or support a startup business. "Empowering localized efforts for the innovation community is crucial as South Carolina's knowledge economy continues to grow," said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt when speaking about offering grants to diversify the economy in South Carolina. The BDC is here to empower Beaufortonians.
  • Not surprisingly, almost 60% were concerned about finances and having access to capital. But did you know that the Beaufort Digital Corridor has dedicated investors with committed funds for curated technology startup businesses? "The reason the Beaufort Digital Corridor exists is to help technology entrepreneurs become growing, hiring companies, and part of that process is helping to source capital," said BDC Board Chairman Kevin Klingler.
  • As one would expect, 95% of Beaufort's respondents think it is a good idea to diversify the economy in the Lowcountry by creating more tech-oriented job opportunities. The BDC can help with startups by providing mentors with solid industry experience, planning next steps in business development and budgeting, and furnishing a collaborative environment in which to work.
  • Over 75% are familiar with the BDC either by having heard of it or attending events such as the Fridays @ the Corridor, TECHconnect, CODEcamps, or having visited the Art Gallery. It is no secret that the BDC is open to helping others achieve their dream of starting a tech business. BDC's BASEcamp is a place where minds engage with each other as well as the community to create a thriving ecosystem here in Beaufort.

"Nurturing Beaufort's technology entrepreneurs is something we take very seriously at the BDC," said Kevin Klinger. "This survey helps us understand the Beaufort entrepreneurial climate plus the findings potentially help other education and commerce initiatives here in the Lowcountry."

You can learn more about the Beaufort Digital Corridor here.

MUSC’s Innovation For A Safer Needle For Surgeries Wins FDA Approval

Academics at the Medical University of South Carolina came up with a needle they say will make many surgeries safer, and it recently won the needed approval to hit the market.The device retracts when pulled out of a patient's skin, an innovation MUSC says will keep patients and health care providers safer. [Read more:][0]

[0]: Academics at the Medical University of South Carolina came up with a needle they say will make many surgeries safer, and it recently won the needed approval to hit the market. The device retracts when pulled out of a patient’s skin, an innovation MUSC says will keep patients and health care providers safer.

Upcoming Events

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November

BSides

BSides is a community-driven framework for building events for and by information security community members. The goal is to expand the spectrum of conversation beyond the traditional confines of space and time. It creates opportunities for individuals to both present and participate in an intimate atmosphere that encourages collaboration. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants. It is where conversations for the next-big-thing are happening. Learn more and RSVP HERE.

December

CDCA Defense Summit

The CDCA Defense Summit is one of the largest defense-focused events on the East Coast, bringing together more than 1,000 government and industry leaders to spark ideas, innovation, and solutions to technology challenges. Learn more HERE.

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