IRVING, Texas—In reaction to COVID-19, global energy giant ExxonMobil Corp. will work with the Global Center for Medical Innovation to rapidly redesign and produce reusable personal protection equipment for health care workers.
Equipment made via the partnership will include face shields and masks, which are in short supply. A new industrial-style mask is being fast-tracked for production, officials with Irving-based ExxonMobil said in an April 2 news release.
The new mask design improves coverage of a health care worker's nose and mouth and will use a replaceable cartridge system that includes a filtration fabric to prevent contact spread of the virus from the saturated filter.
In this design, the filters are disposable while the main component of the mask can withstand repeated sterilization. As a result, officials said, the life cycle of the product is prolonged. ExxonMobil's chemicals unit is a major global supplier of polyethylene, polypropylene and specialty resins.
Prototypes are being tested and reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When approved, production will begin immediately, with ExxonMobil supporting the identification of manufacturers familiar with the materials and process to quickly deliver the masks to doctors, nurses and health care providers, officials said.
Manufacturers then will be able to make as many as 40,000 ready-to-use masks and filter cartridges per hour.
"Expediting advanced technologies to help those who are combating this global pandemic is absolutely critical for society," ExxonMobil Chemical President Karen McKee said. "We're proud to do our part by sharing our expertise and experience in material technologies, and energy supplies needed to support our health care workers."
GCMI CEO Tiffany Wilson added that by partnering with ExxonMobil, her Atlanta-based organization "is harnessing the expertise and capabilities of one of the world's largest energy companies to accelerate our ability to realize that vision."
GCMI also has developed a face shield made from high-grade polymers that can withstand the harsh conditions of sterilization to enable reuse, while meeting the visibility and safety requirements of current designs. The technology complies with existing safety standards, reducing the time from design to front-line use.
More than 50,000 shields have already been produced and are being distributed to hospitals in New York and Atlanta. Production facilities are ramping up to manufacture more than 170,000 shields per hour in the coming days.
ExxonMobil is delivering PP resin for these projects from its manufacturing sites in Baytown, Texas, and Baton Rouge, La. The raw materials will be expedited, if needed, for face mask assembly.
Officials said that ExxonMobil's efforts with GCMI expand the company's work with other companies and academic institutions that are focused on developing new energy technologies, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
GCMI opened in 2012 and to date has worked with more than 50 startups, clinician innovators, university tech transfer offices and academic researchers on commercialization of a broad range of medical devices.