A Cleveland startup is developing a battery-powered, pen-like device that uses cold plasma technology to sterilize and heal wounds, including those infected with drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA.
Sterionics, which licensed its technology from Russian scientists, is currently performing in vitro tests of its sterilization device. The company hopes to initially sell to the military for battlefield use, but eventually wants to expand into the chronic wound-care, emergency-medicine, home-healthcare and veterinary markets, acting CEO Steve Weeks said. Weeks pegs the annual U.S. wound-care market at $15 billion.
The company recently received a $25,000 grant from Lorain County Community College’s Innovation Fund, which Sterionics will use to complete in vitro testing. Animal testing of the technology is expected to begin next year, with human trials following a year or two after that, said Judy Fulton, director of wound research at Akron General Health System, which along with Kent State University is collaborating with Sterionics on research.
“I’ve been doing wound-healing research for years and the application of this technology to wound healing could be phenomenal,” she said.
In addition to wound healing and disinfection, the device could also hold promise in treating biofilms, microbes that form on wounds and resist antibiotics.
Plasma is a partially ionized gas that is sometimes used to disinfect and sterilize surgical equipment in cabinets, as well as for other industrial applications. The substance kills bacteria by interfering with their DNA, but it’s typically so hot that it would damage human tissue. That’s where cold plasma, which is also used in fluorescent light bulbs and TVs, comes in.
Weeks called cold plasma a “disruptive platform technology ” that could sterilize wounds at a low cost without promoting resistance to drugs. Obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to market a medical product for use with humans is the “holy grail” in the world of cold plasma, he said.
Along with Sterionics, Texas-based startup Plasma Technologies is aiming to be the first company to do it. The Texas company in 2008 licensed cold plasma technology from Drexel University and is developing plasma devices to be used in hospitals, clinics and on the battlefield.
Contrasting the two companies approaches, Weeks said Sterionics’ technology produces a higher concentration of nitric oxide, which makes it more ideal for wound treatment. Additionally, Sterionics’ pen-like device is better suited to wound care because it can easily be directed toward the wound site, Weeks said. A representative from Plasma Technologies didn’t return a call.
Sterionics is a spinoff of 5iTech, a Cleveland-based company that partners with scientists in former Soviet Union states to form U.S. technology startups. Sterionics owns the worldwide rights to commercialize its cold plasma technology, with the exception of Russia.