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Robotics: Germ-Zappers Are Saving Lives

This company’s germ-zapping robots are on the frontlines of the battle against hospital-acquired infections and are joining the anti-microbial resistance fight as well.


A hospital is no place to be… especially if you’re sick.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health care-associated infections (HAI) — infections acquired in healthcare settings that can lead to sepsis and/or death — “are the most frequent adverse event in health care delivery worldwide.”

Seven out of every 100 patients hospitalized in developed countries and 10 out of 100 hospitalized in developing countries will be diagnosed with at least one HAI.

That’s hundreds of millions of people getting sick — or even dying — because they sought medical treatment. And it costs healthcare providers a lot of money.

Remember “superbugs” — bacteria resistant to antibiotics? One in four HAI is caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

That’s the next front in the war on HAI, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The good news is there’s one robot capable of fighting the HAI war and the increasingly critical antimicrobial resistance battle.

Meet the world’s only full-spectrum ultraviolet germ-zapping robot — the creation of Xenex Disinfection Services.

Indeed, it does look just like something out of the Star Wars franchise.

Xenex Disinfection Services

The Xenex robot is now used in more than 300 hospitals in the United States, deployed to clean up isolation rooms, operating rooms, general patient care rooms, contact precaution areas, emergency departments, bathrooms, and even public spaces.

Seven out of every 100 patients hospitalized in developed countries and 10 out of 100 hospitalized in developing countries will be diagnosed with at least one HAI.

On March 9, 2016, Xenex introduced the LightStrike, a new product that kills six antibiotic-resistant bacteria identified by the CDC as “urgent or serious threats to health.”

These include carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE); methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae (extended-spectrum β-lactamases); vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE); multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa; and multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter.

Xenex was founded by epidemiologists Dr. Julie Stachowiak and Dr. Mark Stibich in 2008.

Venture capitalist Morris Miller provided initial funding for the business, which reincorporated as Xenex Healthcare Services and relocated from Houston to Austin, Texas, in 2009.

The first version of its Pulsed Xenon Full Spectrum UV System hit the market in 2010.

A 2011 study led by Stachowiak and Stibich and published by the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology found “a statistically significant reduction in microbial load and eliminated VRE [vancomycin-resistant Enterococci] on sampled surfaces” treated with the Xenex system.

According to the study, Xenex’s system was “20 times more effective at killing dangerous pathogens than traditional housekeeping methods.”

Xenex sold its first robot shortly thereafter, in 2012.

A second peer-reviewed study, published by the Journal of Infection Prevention in 2013, found that Cone Health, a not-for-profit network of healthcare system based in Greensboro, North Carolina, saw a 56% reduction in its rate of hospital-acquired MRSA (methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus) infections after it introduced Xenex robots as part of a larger effort to combat HAI.

According to the study, Xenex’s system was “20 times more effective at killing dangerous pathogens than traditional housekeeping methods.”

Subsequent peer-reviewed studies have shown a 56% reduction in hospital-acquired C. diff (Clostridium difficile) and a 70% decrease in ICU C. diff infections, due in part to use of a Xenex robot.

Xenex has raised approximately $40 million in funding across three rounds subsequent to Miller’s initial investment.

A $25 million round announced in January 2015 included significant interest from overseas investors, a strong sign that Xenex will be able to find markets for its products in Europe and Asia.

As New Scientist reported last week, “The first-ever study of hospital-acquired infections in European hospitals has found that the combined health impact of these infections is twice that of the combined burden of 32 infections caught outside hospitals, including flu, HIV and tuberculosis.”

A fresh round of $3 million in September from Tectonic Ventures should allow the company to expand its sales efforts and to fund new product development, as it continues to penetrate a market defined by the more than 750 hospitals fined for HAI last year.

CDC statistics show that HAI kill about 200 people a day in the United States alone.

Well, Xenex’s good robots are about to make hospitals great — well, safe, at least — again.


Upticks, Downticks

Uptick The Russell 2000 gapped lower at Friday’s open, but rebounded sharply to get back into positive territory for the trading week, if only marginally. Based on a Friday, October 14, close of 1212.41, the small-cap index was up 0.4% for the week ended October 21.

DowntickA massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against New Hampshire-based domain name system (DNS) provider Dyn caused an hour-long outage for “half the internet” last Friday morning — including Amazon, Netflix, SoundCloud, Spotify, Shopify, Business Insider, CNN, HBO Now, People.com, UrbanDictionary.com, and Twitter. Dyn’s client roster also includes SaneBox, Reddit, Box, GitHub, Zoho CRM, PayPal, Airbnb, FreshBooks, Wired.com, Pinterest, Heroku, and Vox Media properties, according to The Hacker News.

Uptick The U.S. Department of Labor reported on October 18 that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 0.3% during September — the biggest gain in five months. The increase was due in large part to rising gasoline prices and rents. “Core” CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, was up 0.1%.

Downtick According to the U.S. Census Bureau, privately owned housing starts for September were a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,047,000, 9% below the August estimate and 11.5% below the September 2015 rate.

Uptick The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production rose 0.1% in September versus a consensus forecast of 0.2%. Overall manufacturing output, which accounts for more than three-quarters of all industrial production, was up 0.2%.

Downtick According to the People’s Bank of China, the Middle Kingdom’s currency reserves fell by $18.79 billion in September, to $3.17 trillion — the largest monthly decline since May. Economists had forecast a decline of $11 billion. This follows a decline of $15.89 billion in August. The Chinese yuan continues to slide and is now at its lowest level versus the U.S. dollar since September 2010.

Uptick The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. increased 0.2% in September to 124.4, reversing a 0.2% decline in August and a 0.5% increase in July.

Downtick Phil Chess, a giant of rhythm-and-blues music born Fiszel Czyż in Poland in 1921, died aged 95 on October 19. Chess, along with his brother Leonard (Lejzor Shmuel Czyż), founded Chess Records in 1950. Chess Records signed and recorded artists such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson, Etta James, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry.

Smart Investing,

David Dittman
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily

David Dittman

, Contributing Writer

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