Four organizations earn national recognition for 3D-printed nasal swab used in pandemic

Published: Jan 12, 2023

The invention that was shared with the world: Experts came together quickly in early 2020 to create a 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab. Today, more than 100 million swabs have been produced across the globe using this USF-patented design, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is honoring the USF Health team Feb. 16, 2023.

TAMPA, FL, SOMERVILLE, MA, and NEW HYDE PARK, NY (Jan. 12, 2023) – The University of South Florida (USF) has been awarded the Patents for Humanity award by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for its patent of the 3D-printed nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, created in the early part of the pandemic as a solution to the disrupted commercial production of standard flocked NP swabs critical in diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

USF is among an exclusive group of winners receiving this year’s Patents for Humanity awards, being named alongside the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Gilead Sciences Inc., and Caron Products. All will be honored by the USPTO at an awards ceremony on February 16, 2023.

USF is earning this recognition for its innovative solution to the commercial NP swab shortage. Due to the urgent need worldwide, the 3D-printed NP swab team decided to forgo monetization of their invention and provided the design files and clinical data at no cost to hospitals, clinics and licensed medical device companies around the world as long as the swabs were produced for their own use.

Over the span of one week in March 2020, teams from USF Health, Northwell Health, Tampa General Hospital, and Formlabs worked together to develop a 3D printed swab prototype using Formlabs’ 3D printers and biocompatible (not harmful), autoclavable materials (able to withstand elevated temperature and pressure of an autoclave). The prototypes were then benchmarked against standard flocked swabs for viral sample retention in the laboratory and tested for patient safety and comfort by USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine researchers. After passing these tests, the teams initiated a multisite clinical trial at dozens of hospital sites across the United States, including Tampa General Hospital, Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, comparing performance of the 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swabs with flocked swabs.

From that point on, the USF/Northwell design was shared with hospitals, health systems, the military, and clinics around the globe. To date, the USF-patented design for the 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab has been shared with institutions in more than 60 countries that have produced more than 100 million swabs.

“I am so proud of how our USF Health team stepped forward to combine their expertise and innovation with the teams from Tampa General Hospital, Formlabs and Northwell Health to help save lives around the world,” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, executive vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, and executive vice president and chief academic officer at Tampa General Hospital. “This recognition by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office validates both the tremendous power of academic medicine, especially during a crisis, and the values and commitment these teams have for contributing to the greater good.”

“Our goal from the start was to help as many people as possible, as fast and safely as possible,” said Summer Decker, PhD, professor in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, and director for 3D Clinical Applications in USF Health’s Department of Radiology, who led the 3D printed NP swab team. “In order to do that, we assembled a team of experts in our fields and worked together toward a real-world solution. We then made our files public so that any hospital, clinic or health system could print them for their own facilities and get them to the frontline of COVID-19 testing in patients. Only when you know what you are truly facing, in this case COVID-19, can you actually fight it. This swab was a critical, missing component of the global medical community’s ability to do just that. We are very humbled by this recognition by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for our efforts and very grateful for this incredible opportunity to help not just USF Health and Tampa General Hospital, but also other hospitals and medical centers throughout the world.”

“COVID-19 demanded innovation and collaboration, not only from those on the front lines but across industries,” said Todd Goldstein, PhD, director of 3D Design and Innovation at Northwell Health. “It’s an honor to receive this recognition from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and we hope that our 3D printed nasal swab design helped alleviate burden during the height of the pandemic and showed what cooperation, even in times of crisis, can achieve.”

“We were proud to unite with USF Health, Formlabs and Northwell Health to work quickly and collaboratively to save lives during the height of COVID-19 when swabs were in short supply and in such high demand,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. “This recognition is a true testament to not only the power of academic medicine, but the hard work, sacrifice, innovative spirit and perseverance of our clinical teams and their ability to act quickly and think strategically. We are thankful for the partnerships we developed with other health leaders to find innovative and cost-effective solutions to protect the health of our region and beyond.”

“With quick thinking and action from USF Health, the global shortage of traditional nasopharyngeal swabs was minimized with an entirely 3D printable design that could be easily printed in health care facilities around the world,” said Gaurav Manchanda, director of Medical Market Development at Formlabs. “We were honored to help in this effort and pleased to see the reliability, scalability, and accessibility of our 3D printing solutions put into action. By combining the centralized quality, regulatory, and medical manufacturing expertise at Formlabs with a decentralized production network of global medical customers, local health institutions were able to print and use millions of swabs needed during the shortage. Formlabs is proud to be recognized alongside USF Health, Northwell Health, and Tampa General Hospital in the USPTO Patents for Humanity COVID-19 category.”


About the USF Health at the University of South Florida

USF Health's mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians group. The University of South Florida, established in 1956 and located in Tampa, is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success, and generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. For more information, visit

About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals, 850 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 81,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.eduand follow us @NorthwellHealth on FacebookTwitterInstagramand LinkedIn.

About Tampa General Hospital

Tampa General Hospital, a 1,040-bed, not-for-profit, academic medical center, is one of the largest hospitals in America and delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in the market in U.S. News & World Report's 2022-23 Best Hospitals, and is tied as the third highest-ranked hospital in Florida, with seven specialties ranking among the best programs in the United States. Tampa General Hospital has been designated as a model of excellence by the 2022 Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list. The academic medical center’s commitment to growing and developing its team members is recognized by two prestigious Forbes magazine rankings – first nationally in the 2022 America’s Best Employers for Women and sixth out of 100 Florida companies in the 2022 America's Best Employers by State. Tampa General is the safety net hospital for the region, caring for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, and in fiscal year 2021, provided a net community benefit worth more than $224.5 million in the form of health care for underinsured patients, community education, and financial support to community health organizations in Tampa Bay. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With six medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center, and its 32-bed Neuroscience, Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of FloridaIt also is home to the Jennifer Leigh Muma 82-bed neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Brandon Healthplex, TGH Virtual Health, and 21 TGH Imaging powered by Tower outpatient radiology centers throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties. Tampa Bay area residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics, and they can even receive home visits in select areas through TGH Urgent Care at Home, powered by Fast Track. As one of the largest hospitals in the country, Tampa General Hospital is the first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that provides real-time situational awareness to improve and better coordinate patient care at a lower cost. For more information, go to

About Formlabs

Formlabs is expanding access to digital fabrication, so anyone can make anything.  By combining clinically-validated 3D printing technology, in-house QA/RA expertise, accessible pricing, and a wide range of materials, the company enables healthcare professionals, medical device engineers, and life sciences researchers to enhance surgery, device development, orthotics, and cell culture devices. Formlabs has FDA-registered, ISO 13485 certified manufacturing facilities and a wide range of biocompatible, sterilizable materials made for both SLA and SLS print engines, enabling large-scale medical device production. Its solutions have been used in thousands of publications and are trusted by the world’s leading health systems and medical device manufacturers.