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AFFOA secures supply of 45,000 domestically manufactured N95 respirator masks and works with MA Manufacturing Emergency Response Team

CAMBRIDGE, MA : As the COVID-19 crisis began to exacerbate in the US, Cambridge, MA based Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, Inc. (“AFFOA”), a Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute, quickly mobilized to respond, specifically by securing a domestic supply of 45,000 N95 respirators which it will be distributing to local hospitals this week.

AFFOA’s response to the N95 respirator mask supply shortage was immediate, contacting domestic producers of N95 respirators weeks ago to identify excess capacity and directly procure respirators that would otherwise be delivered to unknown destinations. Ahead of the procurement surge AFFOA’s Chief Technology Officer, Jason Cox, was able to communicate Massachusetts’ need to Alpha Pro Tech in Utah and swiftly secure the NIOSH certified N95 respirators that were delivered to AFFOA on Tuesday, April 7th. Thanks to this connection, Massachusetts hospitals and healthcare facilities will be receiving 45,000 NIOSH certified N95 respirators right when they are needed most.  AFFOA donated some of the masks to the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and are supplying the remainder of the inventory to the local hospitals including the Tufts Medical Center and the MetroWest Medical Center.

AFFOA is a public-private partnership founded in 2016 out of MIT with over $200M in public and private investments, including $75M from the Department of Defense (“DoD”) and $40M in cost share from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in support of Massachusetts manufacturing innovation initiatives.  AFFOA operates a national prototyping network called the Fabric Innovation Network which has the capability to innovate new textile products and establish new domestic production capabilities.

As part of AFFOA’s COVID-19 response, AFFOA is also working with the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (“M-ERT”), established on March 20, 2020 by the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, and led by AFFOA Board Member Ira Moskowitz and the Executive Director of MA Tech Collaborative, Carolyn A. Kirk.  AFFOA was proud to be recognized specifically by Governor Baker in his address to the Commonwealth of Monday, April 13, 2020, when he thanked the M-ERT team for mobilizing, organizing and operationalizing the critical path work streams necessary for MA manufacturers to pivot their operations to produce or acquire the needed materials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to AFFOA, members of the response team include representatives from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”), MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the University of Massachusetts Lowell (“UML”), Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (“MassMEP”), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (“AIM”), and multiple industry partners. As part of this effort, AFFOA is working with many of its Massachusetts’ members including New Balance, 99Degrees, Ministry of Supply and others in support of their COVID-19 response manufacturing initiatives.

AFFOA is playing another critical role on the M-ERT by beginning the coordination of testing newly developed Personal Protection Equipment (“PPE”). Working with MIT, US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command –Soldier Center (“CCDC-SC”), UML and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, AFFOA is coordinating the testing & characterization of filter media used for respirators and surgical masks. These tests are intended to evaluate the quality of foreign sourced respirators (e.g. KN95s), the efficacy of various mask sterilization techniques, and provide preliminary performance results to researchers seeking to develop new filter media given the shortage of N95 filter media. AFFOA intends to expand the scope of testing to include tests for other fabric-based PPE, such as surgical gowns, in the days and weeks ahead. This testing team is comprised of Ben Linville-Engler from MIT who advises on the FDA and regulatory aspects of new products being developed under the M-ERT, Haden Quinlan from MIT who is the program manager for the design and manufacturing of all PPE on the M-ERT, Julie Chen from UML, and Professor Greg Rutledge from MIT who is volunteering his time to test filter media being developed by scientists at local area hospitals.

AFFOA is also working to map out the country’s N95 respirator and surgical mask supply chain to optimize production capacity and identifying paths to purchasing excess N95 respirators. The goal of this effort is to identify opportunities where the nation’s domestic manufacturing capacity can be increased by either pairing non-traditional partners or by augmenting manufacturing equipment to produce the needed materials and end products.

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