3M Global Respirator Decontamination Team

Global Team Leadership Award

3M Global Respirator Decontamination Team, Global Team Leadership Award, Headshot

3M Global Respirator Decontamination Team


For expeditiously responding to a global pandemic; for helping ensure health care workers and first responders worldwide had access to critical respiratory protection; and for establishing effective global and cross-divisional collaboration.

The global pandemic created an unprecedented need for rapid solutions to help protect health care and frontline workers. Advanced Sterilization Products (ASP) in Irvine, California, and Battelle Research Team in Columbus, Ohio, partnered with a 15-member team at 3M to deliver solutions to decontaminate filtering devices. The development, qualification, and approval of the decontamination technology helped increase the availability of essential personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care providers worldwide during the crisis.

The 3M Global Respirator Decontamination team of application and product engineers, regulatory and research specialists, and scientists from Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States was poised to meet the challenge. The 3M team collaborated with decontamination companies to evaluate whether those companies could use their proposed decontamination systems to help facilitate limited respirator reuse during critical shortages without a negative impact on fit and filtration. Research and experimental data provided the foundation for the team’s response to this challenge.

They also needed to perform technical work and distribute global technical information to decontamination equipment manufacturers, health care employers and workers, researchers, and government officials. To expedite the process, the team established a central group with leaders responsible for coordinating efforts in each geographical region.

The team worked remotely and shared their expertise — 3M on filtering products and testing methods and ASP and Battelle on cleaning decontamination methods — to arrive at a rapid and responsive solution. The 3M team supported Battelle as it developed its Critical Care Decontamination System (CCDS) to decontaminate N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) to permit their reuse during the pandemic. Battelle has decontaminated about 5 million N95 FFRs from 48 sites around the U.S.

3M Global Respirator Decontamination team built upon fundamental research performed by Caroline Ylitalo, Ph.D.; Narina Stepanova; and Audra Wilson in the aftermath of the H1N1 pandemic. Emilie Rexeisen, Ph.D., coordinated the global team during the COVID-19 response. Team members Phil Eitzman, Ph.D., in the U.S. and Myokyoung Joo in Korea conducted experiments to evaluate filtration and fit of decontaminated respirators; Claudia Kashihara and Liziane Garcez managed regulatory communications in Brazil; Mina Aldea facilitated regulatory communications for Asia; Hutan Nekui of Germany coordinated partnerships for external companies in Europe; Janet Prust provided expertise regarding U.S. hospital infection prevention procedures; Dianne Gibbs handled Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and regulatory affairs in the U.S.; and Jessica Hauge, Michael Hallock, and Megan Torgrude led communications in the U.S.

Despite working across the globe and handling personal, pandemic-driven issues, the team published and distributed regionally relevant scientific findings within weeks. The main challenge they encountered was the complicated global regulatory landscape. Few countries had guidance for respirator decontamination, so the team produced a handbook for public health officials that detailed the limitations of decontamination and the importance of product testing.

The team worked closely with the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the FDA to communicate the testing results and decontamination methods on respirator fit and filtration. The team continues to share information that supports the research efforts of 35 decontamination companies and has joined other companies to increase production of N95 respirators and other PPE in the U.S. and around the world.

The technical contributions of this team were recognized in November 2020 with the Minnesota Technology Association Tekne Award for COVID-19 Community Response.