coronavirus watch

Texas company making low-cost ventilation helmets sees growing demand amid COVID-19 pandemic

The device could help alleviate a worldwide shortage of ventilators. Photo courtesy of Sea-Long

A company based in Waxahachie, Texas, is making a promising ventilation helmet for coronavirus cases that has become in demand around the world.

Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc., which has been manufacturing hyperbaric oxygen hoods since 1985, has a spacesuit-like helmet that could help alleviate the worldwide shortage of ventilators needed by patients suffering from COVID-19.

The device consists of a transparent hood with two tubes extending from its base that can be connected to an oxygen supply. It has great potential because it could be used as a stopgap to free up ventilators for patients who are critically ill.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients who used them required ventilation 18.2 percent of the time, compared to 61.5 percent who wore oxygen masks. Helmet-wearing patients also had a better survival rate.

According to NBC News, Sea-Long is getting thousands of orders every day from hospitals in America and around the world. Doctors in Italy have found it effective in helping some patients with breathing problems.

And the Sea-Long helmet is only $162, compared to the $25,000 to $50,000 cost of a hospital-grade ventilator.

Virgin Galactic, which has been proactive on the manufacture of ventilation devices, has lent financial assistance including buying equipment, but Sea-Long is still shipping a limited number helmets per order. They've received orders from Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

"'Overwhelmed' doesn't scratch the surface," Sea-Long founder Chris Austin told NBC News.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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