Fox Chase, plastic molding company partner to create new swab

Fox Chase Cancer Center has partnered with The Rodon Group to create a new COVID-19 testing swab found to be more sensitive.

How do you engineer a swab that can pick up and detect COVID-19 particles with more accuracy than other swabs? Perhaps by working with the man who invented popular construction toy K’NEX.

Fox Chase Cancer Center announced a partnership with plastic injection mold company The Rodon Group to develop nasal and oral collection swabs to test for COVID-19. Rodon’s chairman Joel Glickman, who invented the popular K’NEX building system, has been an ongoing patient at the hospital since last year.

Glickman was diagnosed with prostate cancer toward the end of 2019 and was treated by Eric Horwitz, who is both a longtime family friend of Rodon’s CEO and the chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase. Glickman underwent a treatment plan in the first couple of months of 2020, and later tested cancer free.

After COVID-19 hit and the hospital needed to test all of its patients, it mentioned in followup conversations to Glickman about having trouble obtaining enough swabs. Horwitz remembered Rodon was located in Hatfield, not far from Fox Chase.

“There are a lot of people who want to help out with the pandemic in some way, so I asked Michael and Joel if they would consider designing a swab and they said sure,” Horwitz said.

The new swabs are marked with indents around the tip of the Q-tip similar to a golf ball to allow for greater particle collection. They have been found to have improved sensitivity in COVID-19 detection compared to currently marketed swabs, the hospital said in a statement.

Rodon started developing the new swab in April and sent samples out to the hospital a few weeks later for testing. When comparing results, the swabs were found to be at least as good if not better than the swabs the hospital was already using.

The company did not produce swabs before, and once the equipment is set up in the coming months, it could produce 40 million to 50 million swabs a year, Glickman said. The partnership will provide Temple University Health System with swabs for the next five years. All parts will be manufactured in the U.S.

“We’re going to give them as many swabs as they need as a thank you for making sure I’m on the correct side of my treatment,” Glickman said.

Rodon Group is a third-generation family business that was founded in 1956. Since then, it’s grown to operate 118 injection molding machines and has produced over 39 billion parts in the last 25 years.

“Our work with Joel and the team at The Rodon Group is a fine example of how collaboration and innovation among our Fox Chase faculty and staff, industry partners and our own patients help to make possible important advances in science and medicine,” president and CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center Richard I. Fisher said in a statement. ••