Fort Worth’s E-Mist Innovations is going global.
E-Mist Innovations Inc., a health care technology startup headquartered in Fort Worth, is partnering in a $9 million project to help eradicate Ebola and some other infectious diseases in the West African nation of Guinea.
The initiative will use E-Mist’s Touch Point Healthy Infection Control system, a patented device that sprays electrostatic, water-soluble chemicals on surfaces to kill viruses and bacteria. The company provides sanitation and disinfectant services for offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, classrooms, daycare centers, hotels, restaurants, libraries, gymnasiums and locker rooms, all types of public and mass transit, and public facilities.
E-Mist’s two-year-old product first gained national and international attention in October 2014 when it was used to disinfect the Dallas apartment of Ebola-stricken nurse Nina Pham and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Pham contracted the Ebola virus during the treatment of Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the disease.
E-Mist Innovations is partnering with John Snow Inc., a public health management consulting and research organization based in Boston, and with a foundation operated by the first lady of Guinea, Hadja Djenè Kaba Condé, in a pilot program called Touch Point Healthy Guinea.
“It is our goal to deliver support and leadership of advanced technologies and protocols that will best position the people of Guinea to contain and eradicate Ebola and many other known pathogens that hold back the development and advancement of communities,” said George Robertson, chairman and chief executive officer of E-Mist Innovations.
The pilot program will focus primarily on Guinea’s capital and largest city, Conakry, he said.
It will integrate training programs and on-site participation to improve the public health sector and institute regular sanitization and disinfection of touchable surfaces.
“We want the nation to know that it is possible to stop the spread of pathogens through better management of touch point surfaces,” Robertson said. “We are honored to be a part of the first lady’s program and to partner with JSI at such an important time in the recovery cycle for the country.”
Guinea is one of three West African countries, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, that have suffered massive outbreaks of Ebola in the last year. While the epidemic seemed to have waned earlier this year, several dozen new cases have been reported in recent weeks in Guinea and Sierra Leone, reigniting concerns among international aid agencies.
But there are several other communicable diseases in the country besides Ebola, Robertson said. “[There is a] large issue with Malaria region wide,” he said. “Ebola is scary because of the mortality rate so high and the outbreak was so rapid. This plan is a long term process to reduce and hopefully prevent a future breakout of many diseases.”
E-Mist launched its device in September 2014, and the extensive media coverage it received the next month at the height of the Ebola outbreak in Dallas drew the attention of government officials in Guinea. They contacted the Fort Worth firm for more information, Robertson said.
“They reached out to us last October. In March, Mark Stratton, our president, and I met with the president of Guinea,” Robertson said. “The project’s moving quickly. It’s very exciting.”
E-Mist Innovations and Guinea completed a memorandum of understanding on July 23.
Robertson said the initial $9 million for the project is coming from numerous sources. He said he expects to have the startup capital within 30 days. As the campaign progresses, funding could reach $50 million, he said.
Robertson said initial $9 million in funds for the project will come from multiple foundations in the form of grants as well as loans. “We have circulated the plan and are confident with the responses that funding will occur in the very near future,” said Robertson.
“Our staff is already in place in Guinea. As soon as funding is complete, our staff will hit the ground immediately. We plan to be ready by October,” he said.
Robertson said he expects 3,000 new jobs to be created in West Africa if the initiative succeeds. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria also have expressed interest.
As the total project grows over the next 18-24 months and funding could reach $50 million, those funds will be used for the technology, equipment, the chemicals for disinfecting as well as for the infrastructure in setting up the business model, said Robertson.
Some of the jobs related to the project will be in Fort Worth, Robertson said. “We’ll also be creating jobs in Fort Worth in the next 18 months with this program,” Robertson said. “We have 14 employees now and we’ll add 40 to 50 people.”
New jobs being created will include a project management team, administrative support, logistics support, educational trainers, customer service and support, he said.
“We have started with some preliminary recruiting efforts and are confident that most of the employees will be recruited from the D-FW area,” Robertson said.
Robertson is a veteran of the health care industry. He and his son, Josh Robertson, recently sold their family-owned business, National HME, a niche company that provides medical equipment for the hospice and palliative care markets. George Robertson has invested in about 10 North Texas companies in addition to E-Mist Innovations. Earlier this year, he was named a HealthCare Hero by Fort Worth Business.
“Our goal is to make every touch point surface in Africa healthy,” said Robertson. “This health care initiative can effectively change the surfaces we touch.”
“But it’s not just about Ebola,” he said, adding that E-Mist Innovations can help eliminate the flu virus, staph infections, MRSA and other infectious bacteria. “It’s more about the health of all of us around the world.”