When a small business in Kent, Ohio was looking for help to advance one of their products, it came from an unexpected source.
Emergency Products and Research (EP+R) designs and manufactures emergency medical products, such as straps, backboards/spineboards and rescue vests. In 2014, the firm saw a critical need in the industry to decontaminate and sterilize ambulance interiors between patients, especially for immunocompromised people.
Consequently, CEO Jim Doherty and Vice President Jason Thompson began developing AMBUstat™, a product to do just that. But after conducting their own research, they still needed expert advice on using oxidizers to decontaminate public health surfaces.
Around the same time, NASA Glenn Research Center’s Regional Economic Development (RED) Team held a “roadshow” event. During these events, GRC consults with manufacturing companies that are looking for solutions to their difficult technical problems.
At a GRC Roadshow in Akron, Ohio, EP+R was connected to MAGNET, the regional Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), and then to the expertise they needed. Glenn’s RED team brought in Sharon Miller, a NASA subject matter expert with atomic oxygen plasma experience and experience with sterilization using a plasma. NASA uses atomic oxygen plasmas to test the durability of spacecraft materials that will be used in low Earth orbit and Mars orbit.
“They needed information on how many times they could sterilize an ambulance with the ionized mist, which contained a strong oxidizer, without damaging any sensitive equipment in the ambulance. I provided information on what would be the most oxidation sensitive surfaces and some reaction literature. Also guided them in how to set up a test plan to check out the product with an old donated ambulance,” says Miller.
A “Roadshow” event is just one example of how NASA’s (RED) program joins with others to help companies tackle technical issues.
According to Thompson, “with Sharon’s feedback and lessons gained from NASA’s Technical Report Server, we determined that we should replace certain components that may have possible incompatibility with our agent and commit to refining our delivery system.”
NASA partners with MEPs and other organizations around the country to help initiate and foster regional economic development. The benefits are mutual.
According to Miller, “Our organization benefits because it is more publically recognized, and some of the collaborations spark ideas that can be used to improve NASA technology for our missions. Personally, I enjoy doing it because you can fairly quickly see the direct result of sharing expertise and technology and the impact it has on a small business.”
Since participating in the NASA RED activity, EP+R has implemented the AMBUstat™ system in public health agencies around the country. Through its pilot programs in key regions, the firm continues to identify best practices to achieve the effective decontamination of spaces while minimizing downtime and optimizing safety.
“We have met with public health officials and academics from around the world and we believe that our system will be adopted as the global standard for ensuring protection from pathogens in spaces that should be free of infective microorganisms.”