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Startup aims to stay cool with smart container

August 6, 2017

A Rochester medical technology start-up believes they might have an all-in-one package solution to a problem that costs the health care industry $35 billion every year.

Thaddeus Medical Systems, founded in 2015 by Steve Scully, has created a prototype temperature-controlled container called iQ+-ler (the + and - are silent) for shipping “cold chain” medical samples and/or drugs and vaccines.

As a National Institutes of Health Fellow at Mayo Clinic and pediatrics resident at Cleveland Clinic with a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, Scully has seen many spoiled samples and thawed-out pharmaceuticals as well as misplaced packages.

“Most of the errors are due to mislabeling and inadequate temperature control. That’s the reason I founded this company, to address those problems,” he said. “Even the best hospital in the world is still dealing with this.”

Experts say the pharmaceutical industry could lose an estimated $35 billion because of “temperature excursions” and other problems during shipping.

The proposed Thaddeus solution would be able to maintain up to six specific temperature ranges. Sealed compartments in the cooler package allow for multiple samples or materials requiring different temperatures to be shipped together.

In addition to controlled temps, the iQ+-ler would feature remote real-time condition and location tracking for each shipment for safety and security.

“The majority of our competition is just cardboard or Styrofoam and dry ice,” said Thaddeus CEO Ilya Preston. “No one has a one-stop shop solution. That’s exactly what Thaddeus is aiming to do with an all-in-one hardware and software smart packaging solution.”

While Thaddeus knows exactly what it wants to do, it’s still in the early stages of developing their smart shipping cooler.

Scully built a working prototype with help from Samuel Prabhakar’s Elite Custom Solutions in Rochester and Kevin Klungtvedt and Rushford Conductive NanoFiber in Rushford. Much of the financing for the prototype project came from a seed grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

Thaddeus still has office space within Elite Custom Solutions on IBM’s Rochester campus.

“We need to optimize the initial design … and we need to build out the software component,” said Preston.

To help propel the four-person company forward, Thaddeus has been accepted into a 12-week program at a Kentucky-based business accelerator for early-stage health care companies.

XLerateHealth in Louisville announced that Thaddeus will be one of eight companies participating in its “intensive program” starting on Wednesday and ending on Oct. 26.

Bob Saunders, chairman and co-founder of the 5-year-old XLerateHealth, said that his nonprofit organization focused on jump-starting health care start-ups.

“We work with earlier stage companies, get them to success faster … using the methodology of the Lean Start-Up model,” he said.

Scully and Preston hope the time at XLerateHealth with the use of their facilities will give them the boost they need to get a product to the market.

“We have an aggressive schedule. We like to get the beta stage and hit the ground running by 3Q (third quarter) 2018,” Preston said.