Dr. Karim I. Budhwani is CEO-Scientist of CerFlux, Inc., a Birmingham biotech company.
In early March, Dr. Budhwani and Dr. Mathew Might of UAB Precision Medicine Institute penned a policy post in Comeback Town, which was also syndicated in AL.com, to draw attention to imminent challenges from COVID-19. They raised concerns about supply chain disruptions from social distancing and shelter-in-place and other unintended consequences of visceral reactions to the pandemic. They also offered reason for optimism and possible pathways for addressing the then imminent challenges.
As COVID-19 tightened its grip around the world, Dr. Budhwani recognized that supply chain disruptions would soon also adversely impact availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for clinical providers at UAB and elsewhere. So, he immediately deployed 3D printing additive manufacturing capacity, available at CerFlux, to prototype emergency use PPE.
As a scientist and inventor, Dr. Budhwani is accustomed to teamwork and collaboration. He worked with engineering teams both in Alabama and in Iowa on a variety of PPE initiatives. Of particular note, is his collaboration with Dr. Albert T. Pierce and Dr. Nitin Arora of UAB. The trio zoomed in on critical respirator masks for clinical providers engaged in procedures with high risk of aerosolization. They quickly reviewed options, including a snorkeling mask adaptation from Stanford University. However, even those were in short supply. So, they started work on a new assembly: the PABR (Pierce-Arora-Budhwani Respirator). The PABR retools commonly available components into an N100 respirator. Not only did they design, produce, and test these devices, they also openly and freely shared these. They are now in the process of applying for broad emergency use authorization to make it even easier for medical facilities across Alabama, and even across the country, to use them in the event of emergencies. They were also sensitive to cost – material and environmental – so that it is affordable to produce even in low-and-middle-income (LMIC) countries around the world. Editable source designs, a detailed step-by-step instruction guide, and test details were made available free to anyone across the globe.
So, it is his hope that society will emerge from this crisis even stronger but also with a deep sense of humility and gratitude for others. Others such as the other front-line workers during this pandemic; in grocery stores and convenience stores, logistics and delivery, waste management, utilities, farm and food processing, and so on. This is our opportunity to emerge with a deeper and fuller understanding of the oneness of humanity.
Karim exemplifies the values of Vulcan. He served on multiple teams and, together with them, worked quickly to identify real needs, translated those to action, shared discoveries for the greater good, and aspired to help those at the greatest risk. He is a Vulcan Servant Leader in our midst.
About CerFlux, Inc.
Dr. Budhwani co-founded CerFlux, with Dr. Lisa W. Johnson (COO) and Mr. Christopher M. Krebs (CFO), to develop personalized medicine solutions that identify the most efficient and effective cancer treatments on an individualized basis.
CerFlux recently won the prestigious statewide $100,000 Alabama Launchpad Seed Award and built a biotech research and development facility in the heart of downtown Birmingham. The CerFlux team continues to work hard on the fight against cancer, even today. Even during this pandemic, the fight against cancer continues.