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St. Paul-based 3M is currently celebrated as a maker of N95 disposable masks and producer of respirators. The company, often identified simply as the maker of Post-it Notes, is now better known as a big player in health and public safety.

Here’s what is also worth watching at old 3M: The Emphaze AEX Hybrid Purifier. This clarifying filter pulls contaminants and certain DNA out of the cell culture as scientists develop new protein-based drugs. Ranging in sizes that can fit in your hand to those needing to be put in an 18-inch drum, the filters have been on sale for about six years but have never been more critical as researchers try to speed up the creation of drugs and vaccines to fight Covid-19.

The purifiers are a complex product with a simple origin: 3M’s so-called 15% rule, which invites 3M employees to devote about 15% of their time to “experimental doodling,” or work on pet projects. The philosophy has lasted more than 70 years. Masking tape, multilayer optical film on laptops and smartphones and the trusty Post-it Note owe their existence to this rule.
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