Medical facilities strive to keep surfaces in critical care environments as sterile as possible. But one of the most serious threats in those areas is in the air surrounding the patients and staff. Airborne chemical and biological pathogens can readily bypass many air filtration measures commonly used by medical facilities, including HEPA, ULPA, and UV light, and can enter areas where compromised patients, human embryos, and gene/cell therapies are susceptible to attack and contamination.
With a focus on this, LifeAire Systems’ Founder and CEO, Dr. Kathryn C. Worrilow, conducted more than two decades of research into air remediation, initially in the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) environment. She found that the first-line air filtration techniques in use, even combined with best-practice protocols, were inadequate to guard against airborne volatile organic compounds (VOC). This shortcoming places operating rooms, recovery rooms, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and cell manufacturing facilities at risk.
Dr. Worrilow’s research determined that external environmental events can greatly impact the clinical outcomes of a facility. The VOCs that permeate basic filtration are generated through many sources, including seasonal changes, construction, vehicle exhaust, paint, cleaning fluids, and road resurfacing. Dr. Worrilow found that the IVF success rate dropped precipitously when nearby projects, such as road resurfacing, contaminated the air. She also determined that airborne contaminants play a major role, not only in reproductive and cell culture success, but also in the rate of hospital acquired infections (HAI) within hospital and assisted living settings.
This discovery was the genesis of the technology of Allentown-based LifeAire Systems. Dr. Worrilow led a team of chemists, engineers, and physicists to develop the LifeAire System — a patented, in-duct air purification system that incorporates a multi-stage approach with a blend of strategies that capture, kill, and filter airborne chemical and biological contaminants. Unlike common HEPA filters, the LifeAire System provides comprehensive molecular destruction of biological and chemical contaminants, delivering air with purity levels as high as 99.99 percent in a single pass.
With financial investments and strategic business insights from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Worrilow was able to move forward with transforming her realization into a commercially viable product that benefits several types of medical and research facilities. Teaming with H.T. Lyons, also based in Allentown, to manufacture Aire-IVF air purification units, LifeAire now holds 26 patents globally and has deployed units to more than 45 IVF programs worldwide. Clinical pregnancy rates have improved an average of 15 percent across all installations.
“My vision at LifeAire is to help healthcare professionals eliminate air as a potentially adverse factor in the function of a facility. The realization of that vision is the LifeAire System,” said Dr. Worrilow. “The support that we have received from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners has been comprehensive and pivotal to LifeAire. In addition to providing part of the seed funding, Ben Franklin introduced us to an angel investor for follow-on investment, helped us build our management team, and linked us to marketing, business planning, and financial projection experts. We are privileged to have such comprehensive guidance and support right here in the Lehigh Valley to help us bring our industry-leading solution to the world.”
LifeAire’s transformational, multi-stage air purification approach is significantly improving patient outcomes in several facilities. The Mayo Clinic, UCSF Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center, Northwestern University Medical Center, University of Connecticut Health Center, and the University of Iowa Hospital are using the LifeAire System to control sensitive clinical spaces within their environments. The top three IVF programs with the highest live-birth rates in the U.S. for patients under the age of 35 are also reporting dramatic improvements from using the LifeAire System.
The IVF, life sciences, healthcare, and long-term care industries continue to experience the shortcomings of standard HEPA/ULPA filtration and the risks associated with the presence of contaminants in the air. Current news stories depict extremely dangerous diseases resurfacing in healthcare environments — diseases that were long thought to be dormant or defeated — and which can be disastrous to patients. LifeAire Systems’ technology is poised to be part of the solution.