Hoosiers will soon be using high-tech handwashing stations unlike any they’ve seen before. The city of Carmel and fitness centers in Hancock County are among 3Oe Scientific’s first clients, helping the young startup tally $8 million in purchase orders for Iggy. The handwashing device, which won “Tech Product of the Year” at the 2021 Mira awards, uses a series of scientific processes to clean the user’s hands in just seven seconds. Designed originally for healthcare settings, the pandemic kicked open a second door of opportunity for the Carmel-based startup to commercialize clean hands for the masses.
The science behind Iggy originated at Carmel-based Delta Faucet, where the potential of aqueous ozone was working up a lather. Delta licensed the technology to Dr. Tom Foust, a Delta employee at the time, and 3Oe Scientific was born.
The Carmel-based startup’s initial focus is Iggy HD, a handwashing station designed for healthcare settings that its leaders say kills 99.9% of pathogens, such as MRSA, influenza and coronavirus. There’s no soap or even hand-rubbing, the user simply puts their hands inside the device for seven seconds. 3Oe co-founder and Chief Medical & Science Officer Dr. Bob Lubitz says Iggy uses electricity to “break apart” water.
“Water is H2O; we take the oxygen from the water and concentrate it. When three parts of oxygen come together, it forms tri-oxygen dissolved in the water, and we call that aqueous ozone. Aqueous ozone is a powerful disinfectant,” says Lubitz. “We take this energized water and spray it through a set of nozzles that puts a spin on each water droplet, and that spin creates friction when it hits the skin. This combination of aqueous ozone and the friction from the spin is very effective at killing bacteria, viruses and fungi in just a few seconds.”
Iggy is named after the Hungarian physician credited for discovering the benefits of handwashing in the healthcare setting. The startup’s pre-submission process is underway with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and if approved, Iggy HD will be the first hand sanitizer classified as a device.
“Currently, all hand sanitizers on the market are classified as drugs,” says Lubitz. “The approval is through a process called De Novo, which means there’s no pre-existing device like this that the FDA has ever seen. So we’ll be the first, and we’ll set the bar for others that will follow.”
3Oe leaders say Iggy remedies human error in handwashing; studies show only 5% of people wash their hands correctly with soap and water. But Foust says Iggy also delivers benefits beyond simply providing a more reliable level of clean. Iggy is a cloud-enabled “smart” device; sensors are built into the device to monitor the precise levels of aqueous ozone. Designed specifically for the healthcare environment, using the cloud enables Iggy HD to make sure handwashing is up to snuff.
“The healthcare community cares very much about compliance, so you’ll be able to know whose hands were [using Iggy HD], what time and were they compliant,” says Foust, 3Oe co-founder and chief executive officer. “And there will be a dashboard…for the hospital to monitor compliance.”
The connectivity also allows monitoring of the device’s performance and remote routine maintenance. Additionally, the startup emphasizes Iggy’s “green story”; because the device requires no soap or packaging, Foust says Iggy eliminates 224,000 plastic bottles annually.
“We’re not antimicrobial, so with all the issues of pathogen resistance, we don’t have that problem, because it’s not a chemical; it’s nature’s disinfectant,” says Foust.
“Aqueous ozone is found in nature. After a lightning storm, when you smell the crispness in air, that’s ozone in the water vapor around you,” says Lubitz. “We just concentrate it, so it’s a natural product being concentrated.”
While Iggy HD focuses on meeting the stringent standards demanded by the healthcare sector, the pandemic inspired a pivot to create the second-generation Iggy for the masses. Calls came in during Covid about purchasing the device, and Foust says 3Oe now has $8 million worth of purchase orders. The startup envisions the device being used at sports stadiums, transportation centers, schools, offices and restaurants.
“The technology is not one product; this is just the first one,” says Foust. “We’ll continue developing these new products, so that we can do good in the world and make communities healthier—it’s really as simple as that.”
Lubitz says 3Oe has a contract with the Mayo Clinic to develop a device for wound irrigation during hip and knee replacement surgeries.
Foust says the pandemic drummed up interest in Iggy from clients outside the healthcare sector.