Kumarís cool idea: High-tech insulation for biologicsPublished: Thursday, July 13, 2017 By: Sarah Terry-Cobo Source: Journal Record
STILLWATER – Saravan Kumar is giving the blood transport industry an upgrade from beer coolers.
The CEO of Stillwater-based manufacturer MaxQ Research LLC is making insulated boxes that keep blood and blood products chilled to a specific temperature range. He recently received $889,000 in a Series A round from several local investors, including Innovation to Enterprise, better known as i2E. The money will help him hire more employees for manufacturing, sales and marketing.
Kumar said in 2012, he and his colleagues were interested in making super-light, high-strength insulation for very small NASA satellites. But someone who reviewed his business proposal to the space agency suggested the market for space insulation was fairly limited. So he started exploring what other industries could use lightweight, efficient insulation and stumbled onto pharmaceutical shipping.
Typically blood and blood products are transported in Styrofoam coolers filled with ice, commonly used to chill food and drinks. But that can limit how far blood can be transported, because ice chests can maintain blood at the right temperature for only about six to eight hours, with some high-end products maintaining the temperature for up to 24 hours.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules require blood to be stored between 1 degree Celsius and 6 degrees Celsius, about 33.8 to 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
His cooler can keep blood chilled at the right temperature for up to 48 hours. The cooling materials are reusable, so that eliminates the need to have an ice machine on hand. The total weight is lower and there’s about 40 percent more capacity for blood products than inside a typical ice chest.
“So you can pack more per shipment and keep it for a longer duration,” Kumar said. “That creates significant savings.”
Kumar said he’s in discussions with a large United Kingdom-based company for a partnership that would allow his product to enter larger pharmaceutical markets. The discussion is in the early stages and he declined to disclose further details.
I2E President and CEO Scott Meacham said Kumar’s company has three important elements that make it an ideal funding candidate. MaxQ has developed a new product that’s more efficient, there’s demand in the market for the product, and there’s early interest from large potential buyers.
“If they can offer more certainty about the temperature for blood and biologics, then that is a big deal,” Meacham said.
Unlike many other startups that i2E provides seed funding, there was more investor interest than Meacham was expecting, known in the industry as oversubscribed.
“Oversubscription doesn’t happen often, but people can see the use of his products, so that helped,” Meacham said.
In addition to the $889,000 Kumar received from i2E and its privately managed