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7 June, 2006 - 08:49 By Staff Reporter

Start-up plans to breathe new life into health sector

An Essex start-up will soon break cover with a potentially paradigm-shifting suite of technologies that utilise the dramatic medicinal properties of the third most abundant element in the universe, oxygen.

Oxygen Technology International in Saffron Walden, the product of a joint venture between Byrd-Walsh International in Florida and CytoGenex in Hull, has assembled a pool of expertise and intellectual property that promises to yield a huge leap forward in wound care – from sticking plasters for grazed knees to full body suits for burns victims, for example.

The company is in the process of ‘bullet-proofing’ elements of its IP portfolio before unveiling the technology to selected potential customers and partners within the next few months. The company is at such an early stage that its website – – is still under construction and will not be launched for another couple of weeks.

Given this, respected East of England executive Patrick Higgins, who is heading up the new enterprise, is keen not to "over-hype" the new venture. He concedes, however, that it has "strong potential."

While Oxygen Technology will concentrate initially on wound management, there are a host of other equally lucrative applications in healthcare and even in the cosmetics industry.

Higgins said that Oxygen Technology had decided to base its business development function in the East of England because of the "huge pool of expertise available in the area" and also its "strong lines of communication."

Life depends on a continuous flow of oxygen, which is essential for energy-producing chemical reactions in every cell in the body and crucially to the healing process. From the point of view of wound care, oxygen can not only actively prevent infection but also dramatically speed up healing.

Oxygen Technology’s mission, according to Higgins, is simply to find new ways of getting more oxygen to cells, tissues and organs of the body, quickly, safely, and economically, wherever and whenever needed for the health and skin care markets.

The company has designed a variety of oxygenating wound healing aids including bandages, dressings, pads, sheets and wipes. Each provides a measured and time released quantity of oxygen, through either a chemical reaction between compounds infused in the bandage and the skin to produce the gas, or alternatively, the activation of microcapsules in the dressing, for example by applying pressure.

All of the products, the company says, are quick, disposable, safe, economical, and can be self administrated.

Higgins said that this first wave of products could be in use within about two years and be equally well-suited to domestic use as military use in the field of combat.

Only slightly further down the product roadmap is a battery-powered ‘micro-generator’, which can be integrated into wound dressings. The device, which is about the size of a deck of cards, converts ambient air into medical-grade oxygen, allowing serious wounds or infections to be bathed in oxygen for extended periods.

As Higgins noted, very often it is not the initial ‘trauma’ that causes the damage, but the infections to which wounds are prone.

Ingeniously, both sets of delivery systems have been designed to also release selected ‘additives’ – antimicrobials, antibacterials, skin remedies, medication aids, skin sensitizers moisturizers, pain reliever, blood stopper, disinfectants waste destructives plus other substances and organisms.

Wound care is just the start for a technology that benefits from a myriad potential applications. The venture is eyeing its application in the sterilisation of medical instruments, the production of small volumes of drinking water from contaminated sources, the sterilisation of items contaminated with hazardous materials.

Higgins also mooted the development of an oxygen ‘lollipop’ for use in domestic emergency situations, such as strokes.

With former Revlon Inc creative director, Evelyna Cantwell as its CTO, Oxygen Technology is also particularly well-equipped to exploit another key potential application – skincare.

Skin is believed to age once the supply of oxygen available to the cells diminishes and that this happens, over time, because the tiny capillaries that transport the oxygen-carrying blood cells thicken with age, making them less effective.

Oxygen Technology has designed a facial sauna oxygenating mask, wipes and pads which compensate for the decline in internal oxygen supply by delivering it externally.

The company does not plan to manufacture or distribute products or system, rather it plans to provide its IP to third parties in the oxygen therapy, advanced wound care and skincare markets via licensing or joint development agreements.

It is currently privately funded and its business model dictates that it will not require external funding at least in the near term.

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