March 24, 2020

Wayne State chemists, pharmacists team up to make hand sanitizer for COVID-19 front line

Gibson Kirui and Joseph Wakpalto were among other graduate chemistry students who volunteered to make hand sanitizer. Faculty from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences tutored the students on formulation and FDA procedures.

In times of crisis, Warriors band together. When administrators in Wayne State’s Division of Research had an idea to help arm first responders with hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 crisis, students and staff across the university rose to the occasion.

Now a precious commodity throughout the country, hand sanitizer is crucial to those on the front line of the novel coronavirus outbreak. At present, more than 200 Detroit Police Department officers are quarantined after being exposed to the virus.

Graduate chemistry student Regina Szlag mixes up a batch of hand sanitizer. In all, the team produced more than 45 gallons that were distributed on March 24 to the Wayne State and Detroit Police Departments.

Aware of this predicament, Wayne State Vice President for Research Steve Lanier called on the campus community to help, and a network of chemists and pharmacy faculty stepped up immediately.

Department of Chemistry Chair Matt Allen had 15 volunteers within three minutes of sending his email looking for help. “Everyone wants to do their part,” he says.  

Faculty from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences tutored graduate chemistry students on proper formulation and FDA procedures. Using ingredients from the Science Stores within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the team mixed the batches under the supervision of Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice Brittany Stewart.

In all, the team produced more than 45 gallons of hand sanitizer, which were distributed to the Wayne State and Detroit Police Departments on March 24.

“Wayne State is my home away from home. We’re proud to provide Detroit and Wayne State police officers with hand sanitizer to keep them safe, so they can continue to keep our communities safe,” says Stewart. “It's very important for all of us to pull together during this extremely tough time, and to do things we may not know how to do for the greater good.”