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Coming to a pharmacy near you?County businessmen hope their invention has wide-scale appeal
by Adam Jacobs
Michael Jarvis and Brent Fay were recently presented with an Innovacorp start-up competition award for their innovative product. Adam Jacobs photo
ROBINSONS CORNER - Two Chester-area businessmen could be on their way to revolutionizing a pharmacy near you.
Michael Jarvis and Brent Fay, creators of CleanCount Inc., have invented a process they hope will prevent cross-contamination of pill residue when pharmacists are counting and dividing pills.
And it seems the interest in their invention is big enough to draw the eye of the second-largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world.
And it all started with a candy bar commercial.
"One evening when watching TV, there was a Mars bar commercial explaining how they guarantee to be peanut-free," Mr. Fay said. "That got me thinking about how that could translate to the pharmacy industry."
Although it seems like a large jump from peanuts to pills, Mr. Fay explained his wife is a pharmacist and the topic of cross-contamination isn't a new one.
It took almost two years and five prototypes, but CleanCount has devised a way to rid the tray pharmacists use to sort pills of powder residue leftover from previous use, thus avoiding potential hazards caused by cross-contamination.
It is known that some drugs, especially penicillin, sulphides and oncology-related agents, can pose a potential cross-contamination health risk, and most pharmacists take steps to address that problem. What is not known, however, is how often cross-contamination from counting trays results in medical problems.
Mr. Fay and Mr. Jarvis said they'd rather be safe than sorry.
At this point, it's still in the prototype stage and not 100 per cent ready for production, but strides are being made, Mr. Jarvis said.
"You learn a lot when you do something like this," he said. "It's very, very hard to get something truly clean and keep it clean."
What CleanCount has done is create a pill-sorting-tray vacuum effect. When a pharmacist is finished sorting pills on the tray, he or she simply closes the lid of the invention and an ionized vacuum cleans the surface of leftover particles.
Validation work from the National Research Council suggests the prototype cleans the tray up to six times better than the current method of cotton and alcohol swabs.
"We know we can get it clean," Mr. Jarvis said. "We've done the tests. Now it's just a matter of proving it."
Thanks to some help from start-up groupInNOVAcorp and the provincial government, CleanCount is working on a partnership with the Nova Pharm and Chem Co. Ltd., the second-largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world.
"We wouldn't have gotten to this stage without them," Mr. Fay said. "We didn't have a lot of experience with writing business plans and the like. They filled in a lot of gaps for us."
Dave MacDonald, CEO of InNOVAcorp, explained why his company gave CleanCount one of its five provincial start-up awards.
"CleanCount is an early-stage company with two very credible principles, with significant technology expertise and a track record for delivering," he said. "The 'business problem' solved by the CleanCount offering is unique and patented. They had a working prototype and understood what they needed to do next in product development.
"The size of the international market is significant. They were able to attract and angle an investor and a national distribution partner."
The National Research Council helps validate the process by continually testing the product.
Not only would CleanCount manufacture the cleaning trays, it would also clean, recycle and replace the filters.
"There is a disposable tray on the market," Mr. Jarvis said. "But disposing of those trayscreates a problem because they become medical waste."
The partners believe they have a winning formula on their hands with their ionized vacuum, it's simply a matter of time they say before all the kinks are worked out.
But the biggest issue is providing people with medicine that is untouched by any other medical substance.
"What it boils down to is how much cross-contamination does it take to hurt you?" Mr. Jarvis said.
posted on 03/25/08
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