In 2016, Tony Remington had an MBA from Boston College, some experience in healthcare sales, and an entrepreneur's vision. With a few investors, he and Julie Brazil, a savvy partner with a nursing background, bought out the assets of a small testing lab in Covington, Kentucky, about 90 miles from Louisville.
Gravity Diagnostics grew modestly its first four years, competing to perform toxicology, genome, and infectious disease testing in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.
That turned out simply to be prep work for a vital role on the national stage. In March 2020, COVID-19 hit.
Remington's start-up distinguished itself from billion-dollar labs with deeper pocket... and with swollen backlogs... by providing results in hours instead of days or weeks. Work exploded from 20 daily tests to more than 19,000 a day – in six months. Thirty-five employees became 200. Work space expanded from 4,000 to 50,000 square feet, and more than 1 million tests sped in and out the doors. Lights burned deep into the night, seven days a week.
"This is an amazing story, and it starts with our people," says Remington. "Our staff comes to work with a passion. They know they're doing the right things for the right reasons. They understand that if you can receive a sample, test it, and return results today instead of tomorrow, you literally save people's lives."
The initial shock of the pandemic put Gravity Diagnostics in peril.
"Our core business went down 50 percent," Remington says. "We didn't know if we'd go bankrupt."
With the March lockdown, Remington found himself in Covington with one suitcase. (He lives in Florida.) He stayed 12 weeks, unwilling to let creature comforts distract him from going to war against COVID-19.
Understanding that speed of testing could differentiate his company, Remington and team promised fast results to long-term care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and other operations with first-responders. Quick nasal swab kits brought samples flowing in, but Remington saw a bigger need.
He called UPS Healthcare. There, Remington found a combination of ready resources and geographic good fortune that helped launch Gravity Diagnostics to gravity-defying heights. From the first hours of the pandemic, UPS had been in coordination with the President's Coronavirus Taskforce, the federal government, and state health agencies. Stepped-up collaboration provided supply chain services for the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and respirators, N95 masks, and gloves for healthcare workers nationwide.
The infrastructure was ready.
And so was Worldport.
The UPS Worldport is in Louisville, 90 minutes southwest of the Covington lab. It's the largest automated package handling facility in the world, and the center point of UPS's global air network. More than 300 flights arrive and depart the hub daily, where UPS processes roughly 5 million packages every 24 hours.
"The proximity and capabilities of Louisville opened the entire country to Gravity Diagnostics," says UPS's Bill Burmeister, Director of Healthcare Logistics. "Tony could leverage our network solutions to get earlier delivery times for samples, and that meant faster results... and potentially lives saved... no matter where his customer was located."
The UPS team offered Remington a 6:30 a.m. daily delivery of samples overnighted from anywhere in the nation. (Samples had arrived at 9 a.m. with another carrier.)
That was a "no-brainer," Remington says. It meant nasal swabs from a care facility in California or from an intensive care unit across the country in the Northeast could be shipped, received, processed, and reported in less than 48 hours. Billion-dollar labs took two weeks, in some cases.
Then, "without being asked," Remington marvels, "UPS called and offered 4:30 a.m. daily delivery six mornings a week. UPS Healthcare has a true start-up mentality."
UPS Healthcare's processes rely on some of the most advanced shipping technologies in the world. Smart labels and other electronics designate packages for special placement and early retrieval on flights, then for routing to special parts of a facility or sort area for faster processing and pickup. After arriving at Worldport, earmarked packages are rushed off to Covington where Remington's hard-working team begins analyzing them before sunrise.
"UPSers want to run through walls for customers like Gravity and leaders like Tony," says Brian Beam, Area Manager for UPS's Express Critical, which makes the early-hour delivery possible. "Gravity's mission, leadership, and understanding of logistics make for a customer that appreciates UPS partnership, value propositions, and hard work."
Blazing-fast service that has the potential to save lives makes it worthwhile work."In my 20 years with UPS," says Beam, "I can't think of a more exciting time to be supporting healthcare customers."
Gravity's excellence and speed have brought national attention. A natural salesman, Remington has expanded into testing for sports teams and pharmacy chains, and he has new horizons in sight. Mitch McConnell, the United States Senator from Kentucky who serves as Senate majority leader in Washington, D.C., held a special press conference in July spotlighting the lab. Remington credits his people.
"We have a team that comes in to work at 4:30 in the morning, and some of them are still here at 11 p.m. at night, seven days a week," he says. "They're just not willing to accept no for an answer when it comes to work that's helping to save lives and helping us support the response against COVID." Remington also gives gratitude to UPS for a partnership that has made the difference in the incredible growth he's seen.
"UPS absolutely understood our critical-care role, and it did more than we ever asked to help us get the services we needed to help save lives," he says.
"With our UPS partnership, it has never, even once, been about getting credit and growing revenue. UPSers can really be proud of their company, and what it stands for."
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