A wife-and-husband business duo have launched a startup in hopes of saving lives, both from smoke inhalation and, potentially, airborne pathogens like the novel coronavirus.
The technology produced by Apex-based Stitch Partners not only filters air to remove smoke. Pending further testing, Stitch Partners may even be capable of eliminating Covid-19 in the air.
Co-Founders Keval McNamara and Justin McCarthy both have a background in sales, McCarthy with a stint at Nike. They moved from California to Massachusetts to North Carolina, looking to buy a technical knitting company.
Recognizing NC State’s leading technology lab, McNamara and McCarthy met Dr. Warren Jasper, a professor in the Textile Engineering Chemistry and Science Department at NC State.
Jasper developed Stitch Partners’ plasma textile that absorbs smoke from enclosed areas.
“When we discovered this textile, this product, we thought that this can save someone’s life,” McNamara said. “And it’s so exciting that it can really have an impact and save lives, whether it’s saving someone dying from smoke inhalation, which is the number one cause of death in fires, or keeping someone from catching a terrible virus.”
McNamara said that in the fall of 2019, months before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, Stitch Partners began researching their tech’s application to deactivating airborne pathogens. Once the coronavirus pandemic was in full force, McNamara said they’ve moved even quicker to meet this need. This technology could apply far beyond Covid-19 to anthrax, basic influenza, measles and more.
The startup has made many strides forward, such as working with Duke One Health to prove that their plasma textile filter deactivates Covid-19 in the air. Stitch Partners is a finalist in the RDU Impact Challenge, an innovation contest sponsored by RDU Airport, RTI, UNC, NC State, NC Central and Duke to help the airline industry meet new problems caused by the pandemic. Stitch is also now working with a global $22 billion company they cannot yet name.
The one thing holding them back is funding, McNamara said.
Stitch Partners’ proposal to RDU also involves using the startup’s technology in jet bridges. These jet bridges are a “giant, long petri dish” with no way to mitigate any kind of airborne pathogens, McNamara said.
“We believe that by… coming up with a device that you can put inside jetways, it will help increase travelers’ confidence with a clean air solution,” McNamara said. “It will lower the infection rate. It will just make a better experience for travelers.”
Commercializing the tech
On top of Stitch Partners’ list for moving forward? Getting their technology into a commercialized product for companies to purchase.
The manufactured textile’s uses are wide-ranging and potentially in any shape, such as a ceiling tile or curtain that could remove smoke from a room quickly.
While many worry about fire suppression, few realize the true importance of decreasing smoke inhalation, McCarthy said.
“It’s the smoke that kills you,” McCarthy said. “Having a device that can help suppress the smoke long enough to get somebody out of a burning building would be huge. And it is taking a different approach, a disruptive approach, to a problem that’s been around for a long time… It’s exciting to be part of the solution.”
The plasma textile filter could also instantly deactivate any virus that comes into contact. The applications are nearly endless: in airplanes, airports, subways, movie theaters, schools and more.
“As far as pathogens, I can envision some kind of device sitting in every single doctor’s office,” McNamara said. “Because there is no more germy place, especially if you have children, than a room in a doctor’s office.”
[Note: You can take a look below at Stitch Partners’ presentation to the RDU Impact Challenge.]