From Adviser to CEO: Morris Miller on Xenex’s Disinfecting Robots

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buy these things. Quite frankly, you shouldn’t go into a room if it hasn’t been disinfected with Xenex. You shouldn’t allow them to operate on you unless the room has been disinfected with Xenex. The only thing that prevents the doctors from making the decision to actually do that is awareness. I’ve met with eight CEOs of hospitals in the last three weeks that, each time, they go, “Wow, this is interesting. I’ve never heard of it.”

X: How did you hear about it?

M.M.: The technology was brought to me by an Austin entrepreneur named Brian Cruver. He had come across these founders, two epidemiologists. He said, “Hey you’ve done Rackspace. Would you mind coaching me on this?” That’s how we started, with a coaching, mentoring relationship. Then after a while, he said, “Would you help us fund this?” I said, sure, I’ll help you with funding. Later on, he said, “Hey would you help us run it?” Somehow, it kind of got into my bones. When we started it, we thought we might be able to get 5 percent reductions in infections, maybe 10 percent. Once we saw it was 50 percent to 60 percent, you’re talking about saving 70,000 American lives a year, preventing 1.4 million Americans from suffering. That is a worthwhile endeavor.

X: How many hospitals are you in?

M.M.: We’re in just over 300 hospitals. It’s a matter of going and educating somebody, sitting down with them, walking them through the sciences. In the latest service of the machine, we rolled one million room treatments. We’ll treat 3, 3.5 million rooms this year.

X: You received $25 million in funding this year, partly for expanding staff, including sales?

M.M.: Yeah, it was for expansion here and we went international. Last week, we sold 35 robots in Africa. We never just ship a robot. We go to the hospital. We work with them. We help identify their problems.

X: You have plenty of competitors. What would they say they do better than you?

M.M.: Their only argument is that they say they can put out more UV fluent. The market is confused. UV fluents are light. We’re about intensity. It’s the difference between a hose and a power washer. A hose will put out a lot more water. But a power washer, at 18,000 pounds per square inch, will clean your sidewalk in the way that a hose won’t. A mercury light bulb is about the average intensity of a fluorescent light. Ours is 400 to 1400 times more intense, depending on where the disinfecting spectrum is. The answer is, intensity makes all the difference. You don’t have to take my word for it; I have seven peer-reviewed, published outcome studies that prove it.

X: Isn’t there anything on your competitors’ effectiveness?

M.M.: If we took all of the peer reviewed studies that had ever been published on a mercury device versus us, how do we do? Against C Diff., we’re 2.29 times better. That means that, if in ours we had four colony forming units per square inch, they had 10. It is literally math. They had ten pathogens. If you’re over ten, the room is infectious. Below that, it’s not. [We have] 3.16 times better against MRSA; 3.89 times better against VRE. Those are their studies on real hospitals versus us. This is kind of what I need to walk (hospital executives) through, as exhausting as it is.

X: What problems are there with the device that I’m not asking about?

M.M.: It should be adopted. It should be adopted faster and faster. The medical community wants to bring on good solutions, but they’ve had snake oil salesmen in the past. They want to make sure it’s real. The more science we keep publishing—that the hospitals keep publishing—they get more and more comfortable. If it didn’t work, I would shut the company down. I don’t need to do this. Because it works, we should be in 100 percent of the hospitals. I’m kind of the custodian of it because the technology ended up in my hands.

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David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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