Hospitals

PurThread weaves high-tech fabric to keep the ick out of hospital curtains

A veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and a biotechnology entrepreneur has a new venture — microbe-resistant textiles for hospitals. Lisa Grimes, the CEO, says PurThread Technologies is taking a different approach than most textile companies in this sector. Instead of treating the clothing and fabric after they are produced, it adds the protective coating at […]

A veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and a biotechnology entrepreneur has a new venture — microbe-resistant textiles for hospitals.

Lisa Grimes, the CEO, says PurThread Technologies is taking a different approach than most textile companies in this sector. Instead of treating the clothing and fabric after they are produced, it adds the protective coating at the beginning of the process with the thread.

Clothing, curtain surfaces are one way bacteria can be transmitted to vulnerable patients. The idea is to reduce hospital acquired infections, which add up to $34 billion in healthcare costs.

Its chief technology officer Stephen Foss, a textile industry veteran, founded the company in 2009. As a board member of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, he learned of the urgency of the problem of hospital-acquired infections.

The company based in Durham, North Carolina uses silver salts — a raw material — as part of its anti-microbial protection. Although it’s not the only company that uses silver for its anti-microbial benefits, the silver salts are mixed with a resin in a molten state. It has worked with University of Iowa’s microbiology lab to test the efficacy of its technology.

Grimes told MedCity News that the advantage to embedding this treatment at the beginning of the fiber production process rather than dipping fabrics later in the process is it extends the anti-microbial benefit through the life of the fabric. It produces scrubs, privacy curtains, blankets and sheets.

Grimes acknowledges that there are lots of entrepreneurs and other companies working with hospitals at different touch points to combat hospital acquired infections. One startup developed an air filtration system while others have focused on changing behavior of hospital staff. But its technology is passive and requires no training, said Grimes.

Privacy curtains are another area the company has worked to be innovative, particularly with making them easier to change. To that effect, it developed a zipper at the top.

Although Grimes doesn’t come from a textile background she and some colleagues bring a pharmaceutical and biotech perspective to the problem of hospital acquired infections so she sees it as a good fit. Before Grimes joined PurThread, she led a clinical trial management company InSite Clinical Trials, which was acquired by UnitedHealthcare.

Anti-microbial protection isn’t the only area where the company is focusing its textile design efforts. The push to make hospitals a little more aesthetically pleasing to put patients at ease while maintaining a sterile environment has proved a challenge. But PurThread has developed a line of privacy curtains for patient rooms that are pretty atypical for hospitals (pictured) in response to demand.

Grimes said while it’s interested in partnering with other companies it wants to have a collaborative relationship. It wants to maintain the integrity of its brand.

The company is also looking at protecting other surfaces inside and outside of the healthcare industry. “I’m excited about looking at developing prototypes of leading-edge fashions that are also highly functional.”

There are a few startup companies in this space. One is Vestagen Technical Textiles. Earlier this year it raised $8.3 million in a Series A to apply for medical device clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. and launch the line of products. Another, Aries Medical Textiles, is led by Adam Greenspan and resides in the Phiadelphia-based University City Science Center incubator space. 

 

 

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