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Wichita startup begins manufacturing UV device to kill germs

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, at 6:19 p.m.

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A local startup may have a cure for those who suffer from germophobia.

Elevated Health Systems has started manufacturing the ESP-DLux system, a wall-mounted device that uses UV light to kill viruses, bacteria and microbes on surfaces and in the air.

The application has virtually an unlimited number of markets – anywhere people gather – said Ben Swigart, CEO of Elevated Health Systems.

But risks associated with infections are generally perceived as highest in health-care settings, so the company is targeting that market first.

“The sanitation practices now are basically a spray bottle and a rag and it gets done somewhat, but this unit is designed to take hospital or medical facility sanitation to the next level so they have better practices of sanitation with the goal of reducing hospital associated infections,” Swigart said.

In the future, he also sees potential in such places as nursing homes and day-care centers, said Ann Trechak DuPuis, chief operating officer and founder of Elevated Health Systems.

Every day, about one in every 20 hospitalized patients has an infection that is associated with receiving medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Americans contract more than 1.7 million infections each year while being treated in hospitals, according to the CDC. Those infections result in about 99,000 deaths each year.

Kansas is among the few states that don’t require health care facilities to report infection rates.

Cleaning with light

DuPuis said she began to develop the concept of the UV system in 2008 and employed consultants through her old company, Sound Health Designs. She then bought the rights, she said.

The original prototype was built by NASA-affiliated engineers, who continue to be partners in the company, DuPuis said. That design was brought to Wichita-based Precision Winding Inc. for manufacturing.

The first 10 units were delivered to Elevated Health Systems earlier this month.

Even though the UV light is “a little more harmful than a suntanning bed,” Swigart said the system has triple-redundant safety features, including motion sensors, door sensors and a pressure sensor for a patient’s bed to ensure that it is not sanitizing while people are in the room.

It uses computer software to schedule sanitation, and the software also can track and document the length of the sanitation process.

In addition to sanitizing the surfaces that the light touches, the device also has fans to help sanitize the air.

The company has four patents on the device’s automated sensors, DuPuis said. It has been quality tested at the Via Christi Research Center and AMS Laboratories, DuPuis said.

Market competition

The system costs about $3,000 per unit, but Swigart says they expect that price to decrease. In October, Wesley Medical Center announced it had purchased a mobile UVC sanitation devices, which cost upward of $115,000.

“We feel the most important difference between our concept and our competition is that the competition is a mobile single light source system that needs to have an operator take it from room to room,” Swigart said.

“For the same price, we can install systems in multiple rooms, on multiple floors and be able to provide continual sanitation.”

Swigart said the company is working with potential investors to secure additional funding and build inventory.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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