Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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October 20, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Innovasan presenting today at LifeSciTN “Venture Forum”

Innovasan(EDITOR’S NOTE: Two East Tennessee companies are presenting at Life Science Tennessee’s “Venture Forum” today {October 21} in Nashville. One is 3DOps from Chattanooga, previously profiled on The other is Knoxville-based Innovasan, profiled below.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“We’re a clean technology company focused on waste treatment,” Jeff Hubrig Jr. says in explaining Innovasan, a seven-year old Knoxville start-up that is one of five companies presenting at this year’s Life Science Tennessee “Venture Forum.”

The family-owned company was co-founded by Hubrig’s parents – Jeff Sr. and Ellen – and is based on intellectual property co-invented by Jeff Sr. and Joe Dooley. It has 14 issued patents and 15 pending.

“We’re trying to stop pollution at its source,” the younger Hubrig told us in a recent interview. He’s Manager of Business Development for the company where he worked every summer before graduating from the University of Kansas.

Like many start-ups, Innovasan has both short- and long-term areas of focus. Hubrig identified three – fluid medical waste, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste. However, like any successful start-up, the company is laser focused at this time on one application: fluid medical waste.

“There is no cost effective solution to treat and dispose of fluid medical waste,” Hubrig says. Current disposal practices include incineration, autoclaving, and indirect discharge. The latter approach results in the waste being dumped into a sanitary sewer system and entering municipal sewage treatment plants.  These plants cannot treat pharmaceuticals or organic compounds, and those wastes ultimately find their way into a watershed and ultimately re-entering to our potable water distribution systems.

Enter Med-San®, the company’s four-step modular process to treat biological and pharmaceutical wastes for safe and immediate disposal into municipal sewer systems.

Hubrig describes it as “a continuous flow, volume scalable” treatment technology as opposed to the current disposal batch processes. The technology consists of pre-treatment, ion infusion, wet oxidation, and post-treatment steps.

“Those four stages, working in unison, comprise Med-San®,” he explains.

The Innovasan team has devoted most of its time over the last seven years to research, much of it funded by a grant from the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command (USAMRMC), and a more recent Phase I award under the Department of Defense (DoD) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

“We’re now focused on product,” Hubrig says, adding that the offerings will also be staged.

First up is the Gauntlet Disinfection System, an in-line, continuous flow product designed to destroy biological contaminants found in water and fluid waste streams. Hubrig explains that this system employs two of the four Med-San® modular steps – pre-treatment and metal infusion.

“We believe we will have a working prototype of Gauntlet by the end of 2015,” he says.

Later, Innovasan plans to add the Guardian Chemical Treatment System, incorporating the pre-treatment and wet oxidation processes; the Interceptor Waste Treatment System®, incorporating all four stages in the process; and a version of the latter for the military called the M50 Interceptor Waste Treatment System®.

“There’s potential for our technology in other areas,” Hubrig says.

In rolling-out its first product, Innovasan plans to deploy 100 units in a beta development program. Hubrig says the development program will involve at least 25 hospitals, limiting the deployment to no more than four units per facility.

“We’re looking for hospitals focused on clean solutions,” Hubrig explains, an acknowledgement that initial customers will be those committed to environmental sustainability. While there are no unifying federal or state regulatory requirements for fluid medical waste treatment at this time, Hubrig notes that “permitting can change overnight at the local level.”

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