Carmel firm invents unique hand-washing system

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A medical device startup in Carmel is branching into hand washing.

Carmel-based 3Oe Scientific is investing $500,000 as it prepares to add 30 jobs over the next two years to produce a hand-sanitizing device that kills pathogens with ozone-infused water instead of soap or other chemicals.

“Typically, a generator that creates ozone is pretty big,” 3Oe Scientific CEO and founder Tom Foust said. “What we’ve done is, we’ve miniaturized the ozone generator. We’ve put it inside a little tiny box at the point of use. It’s a huge need. Health-care acquired infections are a big deal, and we’re trying to reduce that.”

Foust first helped develop the company’s now-patented technology in 2010 while working for the research and development arm of Indianapolis-based Delta Faucet Co.

Public wastewater utilities have long used ozone to disinfect water, but Delta’s researchers found the same approach could be applied to the way health-care workers wash their hands. 3Oe Scientific’s self-contained spray can shower a user’s hands with enough microparticles of aqueous ozone to eradicate some pathogens in as little as 7 seconds.

“(Ozone) is moving, it’s shifting, it’s trying to break apart. It punches through the cell wall of that membrane,” Foust said. “It’s not a chemical, it’s a natural process. So, when it has done its work it returns to oxygen.”

Ozone has natural pathogen-killing abilities that can help prevent pathogens from adapting and evolving into superbugs, Foust said. And it could spare users the irritation that can come with the repeated use of hand soaps and other alcohol-based cleaning solutions.

Delta decided the medical device was outside its core business and granted Foust and his team of consultants a license to independently pursue the project. 3Oe Scientific now has exclusive rights for health care and medical device uses, even as it shares commercial rights with Delta.

The company has partnered with two local hospitals and two schools in the Indianapolis area for product beta testing later this year, when it anticipates submitting the device to the Food & Drug Administration for approval.

Foust estimated public units may cost between $4,000 and $6,000. Hospital units, which require higher concentrations of ozone, may cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

The company’s headquarters at 424 W. Main St. in Carmel employs six people. It just raised $2.5 million from angel investors, and it’s entering its seed-funding round with a $4 million goal in mind.

Hiring for new sales, research and development, administrative and other positions earning above the state average is expected to start later this year.

To support the company’s efforts, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is offering 3Oe Scientific up to $600,000 in conditional tax credits. According to the IEDC, life sciences companies like 3Oe Scientific contribute $77 billion to the state’s economy each year.

“We’re excited 3Oe is developing its game-changing product here, while simultaneously investing in Indiana’s workforce and creating good jobs for Hoosiers,” Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger said in a written statement.

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