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Cambridge company building N95 mask disinfection units

With the looming shortage of N95 masks, a medical startup is working on technology to disinfect masks for reuse

Cambridge medical startup, Prescientx, are developing and building N95 masks disinfection units for hospitals.

The company hopes to dramatically cut down the shortage of masks needed by frontline healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As more cases of COVID-19 are reported, the more medical supplies are stretched out. Many hospitals across Canada and locally have been calling for donations to deal with looming shortages. The Provincial Government has also put out a call for business and manufacturers to retool and provide additional medical supplies.

Barry Hunt, President and CEO, Prescientx started his company to focus on developing infection prevention products. They had been working on combining automation and medical technology to better disinfect hospital settings, and prevent transmission. In 2017, they were given a Top 10 World Patient Safety Innovation award by the Patient Safety Movement, a world-renowned international patient advocacy group.

Using his previous experience in designing specialty healthcare equipment, his company sat down to develop a machine capable of high-speed, high volume disinfection of N95 masks for reuse.

"The idea being that if we could get ten uses out of the mask, we could reduce the demand or consumption by 90 per cent. Or conversely, we could make masks available to ten times more people now, with the current supply," Hunt said.

With the looming shortage of N95 masks, it could leave many frontline workers being potentially exposed to COVID-19.

"We're trying to find a fast way to bring something to the market to prevent that from happening."

Their machine, called Terminator CoV, is capable of using high doses of UVC (ultraviolet type-c) to disinfect over 500 masks/per hour, according to Prescientx's press release. Hunt said the unit would ideally be located in large regional hospitals that would in turn disinfect masks for smaller neighbouring hospitals. 

Over a dozen hospitals in Canada have shown interest in the device. Hunt said, hospitals should start bagging their used N95 masks instead of disposing them, as they wait for their disinfection units.

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