Well-known local toy maker helps Fox Chase Cancer Center ease swab shortage

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Monday, August 17, 2020
Well-known local toy maker helps ease swab shortage
A patient and family friend who created the popular K'nex toys gives back to the hospital that helped him beat cancer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A steady flow of testing supplies has been a challenge in the our area. We came across an example of a local hospital in need, and a company using creativity to fill that need.

When Italy shut down in March, so did a prime source for the swabs used in COVID-19 tests.

Fox Chase Cancer Center needed swabs to screen patients coming for treatment. But swabs couldn't simply be 3-D printed.

"This is not a Q-tip at all. It's a much, much more complex device," said Dr. Eric Horwitz, an oncologist at Fox Chase.

Dr. Horwitz asked his patient, and family friend, Joel Glickman, the inventor of the K'Nex building toys.

Glickman's plastic molding team had a prototype in a few weeks.

"If we put little indentations into the head of this swab in one piece, it could theoretically collect liquid," says Glickman.

"I thought maybe it had a 20% chance of working out," says Glickman with a wry smile.

Fox Chase tested the new swab against conventional ones.

"We compared it, and that was equal. It actually really did well collecting," says Dr. Horwitz.

Glickman now has a five-year partnership with Temple Health to make swabs.

And he can make 40 million more a year for the general market.

"They still have to be packaged, they still have to be sterilized, but we're in the process of getting all that done," Glickman says.

"This is what allows us to do our job, to do our mission," says Dr. Horwitz.

Glickman says his invention was just a small thank-you to Dr. Horwitz and the Fox Chase team, for helping him become cancer-free.