LRU News

Potentially life saving device developed at LR – Budding entrepreneur takes top prize at startup competition

Mon Jun 2 2014

HICKORY, N.C. — When Bridgette Cooke, a radiographer, came up with an idea for making it safer to get an x-ray, she came to Lenoir-Rhyne University’s small business incubator to find out if her idea might be marketable.

She met with LR’s professor of entrepreneurship, Dr. Ralph Griffith, and told him the idea for a company she calls BioRid. He liked what he heard and decided to see what the public thought of her concept.

They learned that her invention is more than plausible—it’s good enough to win top honors at this year’s Shark Tank business innovations competition held at Catawba Valley Community College. Cooke has decided to use her prize money to hire a patent attorney to protect her idea and find out if anyone else is working on a similar product.

Her innovation is a simple yet elegant answer to a need she’s seen in radiology departments across the region. She’s figured out a way to reduce the chances of transmitting germs from person to person via x-ray cassettes.

The solution might seem obvious—scrub them down with bleach, or something equally germicidal, between uses. But due to the nature of the technology that just won’t work.

Here’s why:

When patients go in for an x-ray the radiographer places a cassette under the affected area. The cassettes come in a variety of sizes one of the most common being about the size of a clipboard and about a half-inch thick. The center of the cassette is plastic and is held in place by a metal frame around the edge.

A few years ago the cassettes held x-ray film. Today they’re packed with electronics and cost thousands of dollars. The next generation of x-ray technology, digital radiography, allows radiographers to see the x-ray results almost immediately after shooting the image—but the cassettes are far more expensive. They’re not disposable.

“Almost everyone who comes into the hospital these days gets an x-ray,” Cooke said. “Whether we’re ruling out a broken bone or doing a chest film to clear them for surgery we’re x-raying people all day long.”

The same cassettes are used from patient to patient, whether the patient is injured, fighting an infectious disease or the x-rays are taken post mortem. And sterilizing the cassettes is a tricky business. Manufacturers warn against using harsh chemicals because they can damage the delicate inner-workings of the machines that the cassettes are fed into. More gentle cleaners like disinfectant wipes do one or more of the following: leave a chemical residue behind, don’t kill enough of the germs, require a long dry time for maximum effect or corrode the electronics inside the cassettes.

“My goal was to find a way to sterilize the equipment effectively with a method that would ensure 100 percent compliance because it was just a natural part of handling the cassettes,” Cooke said. “That’s why I designed a cabinet where the cassettes could be exposed to a germ-killing energy source during storage, which would make a big impact on the rates of hospital-acquired infection by targeting the chain of transmission.”

That’s BioRid—dead germs without harsh chemicals.

“We’ve had some really exciting early successes during our first year of operations at LR’s Center for Commercial and Social Entrepreneurship,” said Griffith, who also acts as the center’s director. “The Center is open to students and members of the community—anyone with an idea for a business who’s looking for a way to get it off the ground.”

Griffith and Cooke also sought input from Jeff Neuville, director of Catawba Valley Community College’s Small Business Center who gave Cooke additional direction on her business plan. From there she went to Tony Whitener at Manufacturing Solutions to discuss building a working prototype.

Cooke’s next steps are entering the Edison Project—an entrepreneurial competition sponsored by the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce. She is also partnering with Innovation Fund NC a statewide initiative led by CVCC—a pilot project focused on providing technology for start-ups in an effort to help them become thriving businesses.

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