Utah Student Startup Developing Infection-Free Catheter

May 22, 2014

Infections from catheters are responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths every year worldwide. A team from the University of Utah is working to eradicate the problem by developing a catheter that uses light to eliminate bacteria.
Credit Veritas Medical

A team of bio-engineering and medical students won first place and $75,000 at the International Business Model Competition on Wednesday for their plan to eliminate infections associated with catheters.

They beat 2,500 other teams from 20 different countries.  

The team, Veritas Medical, is a medical devices startup company launched in 2012. It is headed by Nate Rhodes, a U of U bio-engineering student.

“Right now, there is about $11 billion spent every year to treat those infections from the catheters," he said. "But still in 2014, there are almost 100,000 people that die each year from infections worldwide.”

To diminish the catheter problem, Rhodes said his team is attempting to preemptively eliminate infections.

“It has a couple of unique components in our system that allows visible light to go in and sterilize and kill bacteria that come in contact with the catheter,” Rhodes said.

Violet and indigo light can be used to eradicate bacteria through lasers or LED lights, he says.

“There are some really unique properties with that," he said. "What happens is photons of light excite the bacteria and cause a free radical formation to kill them and stop them from being able to replicate."

The process has no effect on human cells.

The $75,000 reward money will go toward lab testing and to establishing a working prototype.