Link To Guest Website: https://www.livonyx.com/
Title: “Prioritizing Infection Prevention Through Improved Hand Hygiene”
Guest: Carmela Mascio – LivOnyx
Interviewer: Jeffrey Davis – MAGE LLC
Click here to read the transcript
Oh, here I am. Again, sitting in my mini Radio Entrepreneurs studio. My name is Jeffrey Davis, and we continue to send you stories and post stories on entrepreneurship, business leadership, across many realms of business. And our next guest is a Carmela Mascio president and co-founder of LivOnyx. I hope I got all that
Straight. You got it. Nice job, Jeffrey.
Well, I did just enough reading Carmela to make me really wonder what you’re doing. And then you put up that graphic and you really got me spooked. So I can’t wait to hear
Well, thank you so much to you and your colleagues for having me on today. So really what we’re doing at LOnyx is long before the pandemic. We’ve prioritized infection prevention, recognizing that even when hand hygiene with products that exist today is done a hundred percent correctly. It may not be enough to inhibit germs like cluster Ortiz, difficile that you see behind me. And so simply put we’re making hand hygiene safer, faster, better, and more consistent for in hospital use with our device and antiseptic
Jeffrey (1m 22s):
Your device antiseptic. I think I understand because that would be a product that we could apply, but what is the device?
Carmela (1m 30s):
Sure. So imagine you’ve probably gone into public restrooms and used those hand dryers that you certain do. You heavily insert your hands into, and there’s a very loud noise and it dries your hands. So imagine something like that, but instead of drying your hands, we’re going to sanitize them. And so we are developing this product that will be a fully automated system that you would put your hands into and it will spray our antiseptic on it in order to inhibit the germs that are relevant in hospitals today. I’m
Jeffrey (2m 3s):
Sorry, I’m taking this off on a tangent, but I used to, I used to work for the surgical division of J and J Ethicon. And I used to watch surgeons scrubbing up, which seemed like an eternity. Would this potentially be a reply? I know that’s a very limited use, but would this potentially be a replacement for that very thorough scrubbing that that surgeons have
Carmela (2m 24s):
To do? No. Actually we want surgeons to do that very arduous scrubbing because in surgical settings, you really need to get deep into the layers of the epidermis in order to get your natural microbiota or the natural bacteria. Because those, if introduced into an open site on the body could cause infection. So we want surgeons to continue doing this. This is going to be for in healthcare settings, like your ICU wards, your general wards, your ERs, your longterm care facilities, nursing homes. So this is for your care practitioners, visitors and patients where we just want to kill the germs that don’t belong on the surface of your hands.
Carmela (3m 7s):
Because the reality is is that when you go into those deeper layers of the skin and you actually killed the natural bacteria that causes downstream effects of overdrawing of your skin and secondary infections, we actually want to preserve the good actors and only want to get rid of the bad actors that could cause problems in health care. Oh, darn.
Jeffrey (3m 28s):
We just nailed my last, my next question, before it even came out of my mouth. Talk about intuitive. Yeah, it was very good. Now this product is not designed for those of us who have OCD. I don’t, I’m not saying I do. We have OCD who are compulsively cleaning their hands, correct.
Carmela (3m 45s):
It’s not necessarily needed for that situation. The reality is, is that the products that we have currently for everyday use your soap and water, your alcohol based hand sanitizer. Those are fine for everyday settings. They do a good enough job, but in healthcare, particularly because you have organisms like the cost Ortiz difficile. So to put it in context, the C diff that you see behind me that can survive on surfaces for more than six months in hospital settings. And once you get it introduced into your body, it’s very, very difficult to get rid of it, results in profuse, numerous amounts of diarrhea, which can ultimately lead to death.
Carmela (4m 27s):
So it’s a really significant problem, which is why it’s on the urgent threat list, but you don’t see C diff in, you know, community settings, really. So this is really going to be healthcare and in nursing homes and that kind of thing, where it’s a big problem. And so while it would be great to have a consumer focus, I don’t think it’s needed. And we want to make sure that we preserve, you know, what we would consider like the big guns to be used in healthcare, because that’s where it’s really critical because your patients are so vulnerable. No one goes to the hospital because they’re on vacation, right? And so you want to protect the folks there who are vulnerable from, from these bad actors.
Jeffrey (5m 11s):
I’m gonna, you know, make up my fictitious old Jewish grandmother and say, how does a nice person like you get into a business like this? What’s your background?
Carmela (5m 22s):
Sure. It’s a great question. Thanks for asking. So I’ve always had a love for science, but as a kid, when I had a love for science, I thought that meant either you became a doctor, a veterinarian, a nurse, that kind of thing. I didn’t know that this field of microbiology existed. And it was my freshman biology teacher that actually introduced us to this idea of microbiology. So fast forward to, I had an amazing career at Cubis pharmaceuticals in Lexington mass, we were known for antibiotic drug discovery. And so I was part of the in vitro biology group that worked particularly with this organism behind me, cluster Ortiz, difficile, and we made antibiotics.
Carmela (6m 9s):
And as a company, we decided it wasn’t enough to make life-saving antibiotics because the pathogens are outsmarting us every way. So we wanted to prioritize infection prevention. And so we created a stealth infection prevention division within cubists that I got to Coleen. And the idea was, we know one out of every 25 patients going into hospitals are getting hospital acquired infections, and we want to stop those. And so looking at what happens on a systemic level, it’s coming from contaminated hands, contaminated surfaces and the environment throughout the hospital and durable medical equipment. And so we really started to try to develop technologies around that.
Carmela (6m 50s):
Unfortunately, the beginning of 2015, unfortunately for me, the company was acquired at the beginning of 2015 and all research operations subsequently shut down. And so after a few months, the engineers that I had been working with approached me and asked if I would be willing to create a startup company to finish what we started, but using a different technology. So solving the same problem, but using something different. And so that’s how we created LivOnyx and launched the company.
Jeffrey (7m 19s):
Well that you just got my next question again. I don’t know how you’re doing it. You’re reading my mind, which is not that complicated. My mind’s like a Dr. Seuss book. So let me ask you, this was your first venture as an entrepreneur. What’s that been
Carmela (7m 36s):
Like? Oh, it’s crazy. It’s like jumping off of a cliff and assembling the airplane using duct tape as you’re falling. So there are absolutely exhilarating moments when the data is coming out as expected and we’re making headway on the technical side. And then there are just moments that are terrifying and demotivating and still crushing. So it has certainly, you know, I work at this amazing incubator space affiliated with the university of Massachusetts and Lowell called MTD too. And they’re they’re entrepreneurs that have been serial entrepreneurs and they start a company, they sell it off, they start another one, they set a law.
Carmela (8m 17s):
And I don’t think I have that phenotype. I really fell into becoming an entrepreneur and starting a company. So it’s definitely been an experience. And
Jeffrey (8m 26s):
I would assume that you’re a VC funded as well.
Carmela (8m 30s):
Actually, our funding right now is through former Cubist colleagues that believed in the project when we be when we began. And so we’re really excited to continue to have their support and mentorship. So right now we’re actively fundraising and believe it or not, despite the fact that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, mobilizing change in infection prevention is very difficult. And so there’s a lot of funding dollars through both grants and through VC or other kind of fundraising mechanisms that are prioritizing treatment vaccination obviously.
Carmela (9m 10s):
And also now diagnostics have become kind of a highlight, but infection prevention is still woefully behind. And so we’re very accustomed as a society to be very reactive to things and LivOnyx. We’ve had the vision of wanting to be proactive because we understand how the pathogens are germs out, smartest around every turn. And so it’s getting to have granting mechanisms and investors to get on board with that has been quite a bit of a challenge. Well,
Jeffrey (9m 41s):
Especially cause it wasn’t your background, but you also unlike a lot of entrepreneurs who have a, a disproportionate sense of control and independence on average, you inherited investors and a board of directors. I would assume that you have to deal with, which is also a new experience.
Carmela (9m 60s):
Yeah. And you know, I’m very fortunate because they’re all amazing because they’re folks that I’ve worked very closely with through the Cubist effort. I feel like on that front, they’ve just been great motivating and guidance factors for us. You know, it’ll be interesting to see as we take on additional investment in that the phenotype of the board will change. So that’ll be a definitely a new thing for us to be able to encounter. But so far, it really just has been trying to convince people that there is a profitable business in infection prevention. You know, we have a regulatory pathway because of our antiseptic that sometimes feels scary for investors because when they hear regulatory pathway, the FDA, they’re thinking, you know, everything that we just went through with the vaccine trials and that kind of thing.
Carmela (10m 49s):
And it’s nothing like that for a topical antiseptic. These are clinical simulation studies. They’re much smaller, less expensive, less time, but some of it is just educating the people we’re talking to about what our path forward is, and then convincing them of the business upside. But really at the end of the day for the hospitals, we want to be able to offer that better hand hygiene solution for what they’re used to already painting
Jeffrey (11m 14s):
Very, very good, large market, great opportunity. Competitive advantage. We are speaking with Carmela Mascio president and co-founder of live Onyx. I got it wrong the first time. And if somebody is looking for you or the company, how would they find you?
Carmela (11m 33s):
Oh, we can. We’re easy to find. So I’m on LinkedIn. We have our website www.LivOnyx.com. You can email info@LiveOnyx.com. So we’re not hard to find. Okay.
Jeffrey (11m 48s):
And you can find Radio Entrepreneurs and more of Carmela on our website, www.RadioEntrepreneurs.com on LinkedIn, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, iTunes, Google podcast, a podcast and Stitcher just in case anybody was wondering if my producers were working, they’ve got us everywhere. So I want to thank you for being on the show and you will be coming back. Correct? I
Carmela (12m 11s):
Hope so. Yes. Thank you so much for inviting me today. And I can’t wait to come back and give you an update, right. And
Jeffrey (12m 18s):
I, I’m not sure I’ve had a scientist on before who wore matching clothes to the, whatever, whatever pulling behind your back. You know,
Carmela (12m 27s):
It happens to work out that purple is my favorite color and that’s just how this organism stains. So I’d love to say it was all purposeful, but it’s not,
Jeffrey (12m 36s):
Well, I hope you have a positive stain on society and remind everybody, this is Radio Entrepreneurs. Thank you.
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