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19 Ways Dragons Came to the Rescue During COVID-19

PA FDC COVID Mask Illustration

July 7, 2020

When a crisis hits, everyone looks for the cavalry. This spring, it wasn’t Washington, D.C., or the Army Corps or the National Guard. Instead, almost immediately, ordinary people stepped up. Our tremendous community of faculty, staff, students and alumni leapt into action, bringing information, aid and gear to those impacted.

We learned of alumni who were pitching in to provide food, economic aid and emergency medical supplies to the city. On campus, students collected supplies and created resources to keep others informed and connected. Meanwhile dozens of faculty members launched new COVID-19 research projects, with 17 faculty awarded fundings for diagnostics, devices and scientific studies that promise to save lives and advance our understanding of the virus.

Though we selected 19 stories to share in Drexel Magazine, many more went untold. Here are some of the Dragons who answered crisis’ call in the early weeks of the pandemic.

6. Geneviève Dion

Just last September, Drexel’s Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center at the Center for Functional Fabrics relocated into a state-of-the-art research facility at 3101 Market St. to develop next-generation functional textiles and original products. When the pandemic arrived six months later, the center’s 3D knitting machines and cutting-edge prototypes became a lifeline to front-line workers in need of filtering masks.

Inside the 10,000-square-foot, $7 million space, Director and Professor of Design Geneviève Dion rapidly assembled a team of six to move two mask prototypes — one for health care providers and one for the public — into 24/7 production, compressing years of R&D into a few weeks.

Within 24 hours of deciding to take on this project, Dion had the center reclassified as essential. A few days after that, she was already reviewing an initial design with College of Medicine colleagues. Within two weeks, the designs were in production, and by week four, her team had made about 1,200 washable, adjustable masks.

Dion estimates the masks are nearly as effective as respirators, though there has been no time for FDA testing. “The feedback we’ve received indicates that we’re close,” she said. “But you don’t want to make false claims for a product, especially one that people’s lives depend on.”

Dion’s target is to make 10,000 masks every six weeks, for as long as needed. She’s proud of how the young innovation center, which was created with public funds to revive the region’s textile and garment manufacturing, has proved itself capable of a rapid response.

“The center was designed with that in mind, but it’s rare to have the opportunity to fully demonstrate it,” Dion said. “This emergency has forced us to show what we can do in a short amount of time.” — Beth Ann Downey

Click for full Drexel Magazine article featuring all of the Drexel Dragons creating COVID-19 solutions.