LEE — When the coronavirus pandemic first began, and a terrified public stayed home, employees at Boyd Technologies kept going to work.

The family-owned company quickly tailored its medical and life-science manufacturing labs off Route 20 to make face masks. Eight months later, it is on track to make 60 million per year — half surgical and half N95 respirators.

All the while, Boyd workers also were making sleeves with temperature control sensors to ensure the integrity of blood plasma during transport. These would be used to safely hold the plasma in another company’s new portable thaw machine, the ZipThaw.

This new technology by FreMon Scientific can bring a blood transfusion to a patient at the right temperature, for instance, whether in a nursing home, or, in the future, on the battlefield. The sleeves made by Boyd also eventually could carry mother’s milk, and possibly vaccines.

It was this new creation by both companies, and more from this frontline business in Lee, that drew U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, to company headquarters Tuesday to look in on the manufacturing operation.

Boyd, which has 55 employees, has been making flexible materials used in medicine and science for 40 years. It also is working on diagnostic products that could be used for COVID-19 testing.

After a tour and conversations with company CEO Stephen Boyd, FreMon CEO Farideh Bischoff and others from both companies, Neal praised Boyd executives and told its workers that theirs is a classic American story of creativity during the hardest of times, and amid desperate need for masks and other personal protective equipment — for which the nation was caught short.

Richard Neal visits Boyd Tech

The ZipThaw, manufactured by FreMon Scientific, and a sleeve made by Boyd Technologies in Lee. The companies have partnered for a product that transports medical specimens like blood plasma with temperature control. 

Bischoff, a cell biologist and CEO of the La Jolla, Calif.-based company, told The Eagle that the company was able to continue working on its $15,000-per-unit ZipThaw products throughout the pandemic, and already has begun shipping it worldwide.

Neal, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the “underreported story” is the burgeoning ingenuity during ongoing hardship of lockdowns and disease.

“You’re a part of this terrific story, right here in Lee,” he said to workers, standing beneath an American flag.

He further said that America has to stay competitive in domestic manufacturing.

“The challenge from China is not going to diminish,” he said.

Brian Johnson, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, said the Boyd firm was a “beacon of hope” early in the pandemic.

And Stephen Boyd also lauded employees.

“We have been agile and we have been a first mover,” he said, adding that none of it could happen “without public and private partnerships.”

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871. On Twitter @BE_hbellow.