On September 17, the Nashville Health Care Council hosted a member discussion with Dr. Frank Basile, CEO, Aegis Sciences Corporation. This virtual event was the latest installment of the Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series, which invites Council board members and C-suite health care leaders to discuss their perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its overall impact on the health care industry. Dr. Basile spoke with Lovell Communications President and CEO Rosemary Plorin about his company’s dramatic 2020 shift to find COVID-19 testing solutions.
The first quarter of 2020 was a literal and figurative storm for Aegis. On March 3, the city of Nashville was struck by devastating tornados, hitting the company’s headquarters and making it necessary for administrative team members to operate remotely. A few weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic lockdown went into effect, leading to a 65% reduction in Aegis’s business by early April. Aegis Sciences Corporation’s core business is in medication compliance testing, serving primary care and pain management clinics as well as behavioral health and substance use/addiction clinics. Having studied the oncoming pandemic and recognizing that rapid testing would be a vital factor in fighting the virus nationwide, the Aegis team saw an opportunity to pivot their focus.
“We had never done testing like COVID-19 before, but we have strong capabilities in high throughput complex testing and a talented molecular lab team that we could leverage. For us, the key was making sure we could sustain our supply chain, which was one reason others were falling short. We have strong relationships with suppliers and were able to make it work from that perspective,” Dr. Basile said. “Before we went down this road, we wanted to make sure we could deliver.”
Another strategy that Aegis enacted early-on was investing ahead of demand. This meant maintaining capacity at 30-50% above expected demand. This was deemed critical in being able to maintain a rapid 24-hour turnaround on test results. Demand has grown strongly and capacity is targeted to reach over 60,000 tests per day by end September.
“From the beginning, we have been committed to a 24-hour turnaround time for test results. Producing tests that are fast and accurate is a critical need that we serve in the market,” Dr. Basile said.
Aegis’s commitment has paid off, as the company has gained more than 1,500 new customers since the COVID-19 testing program launched. In addition to clinical clients, they also serve state and institutional clients as well as schools and employers. Public partnerships have also emerged, with grants from HHS and NIH enabling Aegis to expand its capabilities to meet nationwide testing needs.
As for the future, Dr. Basile said the core testing business has returned to about 85% of pre-COVID levels and is on track to be at 100% sometime in Q4. He also sees opportunity in bringing additional COVID tests to market as well as antibody tests which could be an important market beyond 2021.
“There is no template for a pandemic like this, but we continue to learn and grow. The advice I would give other leaders out there would be, if you see an unmet need and a market that is failing to deliver what people want, don’t hesitate to leverage your teams capabilities and assets to develop a real solution,” he said.
“Health care is doing noble work these days, and it’s important to remember the great things that can be accomplished when you use your expertise creatively for the greater good,” Plorin said. “The Aegis story is a great example of Nashville’s innovative spirit.”