Roswell Park Employee Making Hand Sanitizer

Roswell Park Whips up Homemade Hand Sanitizer

In-house production negates any concern about cancer center’s supply

Back in ordinary, pre-pandemic times, Roswell Park used a lot of hand sanitizer  about 15 to 20 gallons a week. And not just in the hospital. In addition to bottles of it at every hand-washing station in clinical care areas, more than 1,000 hand sanitizer stations are sprinkled throughout the 15 buildings on campus, and everyone — patients, visitors and employees — is encouraged to apply liberally and frequently.

When COVID-19 emerged as a global health threat, Roswell Park staff knew that the cancer center would soon need a lot more of the germ-killing goo, and that their ability to resupply would need to be secured. “Just as we increased our usage dramatically, so did many other organizations across the country, and the supply chain slowed substantially,” explains Steven Wright, Vice President for Facilities Management. “It was time to develop a work-around.”

So, a group of Roswell Park engineers, research scientists and biochemists rolled up their sleeves and mixed a batch of their own. First, they raided their pantries. The basic ingredients — glycerol, hydrogen peroxide, and ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, plus various reagents — are standard supplies in most scientific laboratories, but in low volumes. With many of Roswell Park’s 125+ laboratories temporarily closed due to coronavirus, they found enough supplies for a pilot production of more than six gallons.

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“Our researchers prepare many solutions for their labs as part of their daily work,” says Dale Henry, Roswell Park’s Chief Scientific Operations Officer. “This is simply using a new recipe for their preparations and materials. Our in-house biochemists are eminently qualified to produce the sanitizer and ensure the quality.”

With two successful test runs behind them, the team — led by Raymond Jones, Dale Henry and Ravindra Pandey, PhD — produced another 70 gallons of hand sanitizer to be used in dispensers across the Roswell Park campus. They have already secured quantities of the ingredients to make another 280 gallons, enough to meet the center’s hand sanitizer needs for months to come.

“Roswell Park’s patient population is unique compared to other hospitals,” says Shirley Johnson, MBA, MS, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President and Chief Clinical Operations Officer. “Cancer treatments like chemotherapy weaken the immune system, and so our normal policies reflect an assumption that all our patients may be immunocompromised. Hand sanitizer is a critical part of maintaining a safe environment, and being able to produce our own as needed is outstanding.”