23 May UW Student Story: Blexx Technology creates efficient, portable means of hypodermic needle sterilization and disposal
By Nate Mach
Needle disposal has long been a source of frustration for users, especially at the institutional level.
Individuals or institutions traditionally collect and store used hypodermic needles in “Sharps” disposal containers and require those containers to be transported offsite, where heat is used to sterilize the biohazard and destroy the needle. This procedure can take weeks between pickup and sterilization, costing needle users an average of 20 cents per needle.
Blexx Technology seeks to simplify this process with a portable device that rapidly grinds and disintegrates hypodermic needles on-site immediately after use. This method of sterilization eliminates the need for storage and transportation and leaves the user with a plastic syringe that is safe for disposal in a standard trash bin.
The on-site grinding process also raises safety and environmental standards within the $1.36 billion needle disposal market by limiting the number of individuals exposed to potentially hazardous needles and erasing the carbon footprint of needle storage and transportation.
Erin Tenderholt founded Blexx Technology at age 19, early in her college career at UW – Madison in 2016. A UW Business School graduate in May 2019, Tenderholt is looking to continue her role in the company, with an official fundraising round for Blexx Technology set for summer 2019.
“The first semester of my senior year was when investors began reaching out and when this project really became larger than myself,” Tenderholt said.
Through angel or venture funding, Blexx Technology is seeking to raise $300,000 to assist in legal costs, regulatory approvals and further product development. Blexx Technology intends to file patents internationally by the end of the calendar year and begin sales by January 2020.
“There are so many markets for this product and in the long run, I want every single hypodermic needle user to benefit from this device,” Tenderholt said. “We need to prove our success and viability before going into hospitals,” she explained.
With assistance from the university’s Design to Igniter program, Tenderholt identified nursing homes and traveling home health nurses as the ideal starting market due to its struggles with the expense and safety hazards of Sharps disposal containers, as well as its potential to scale and smoothly transition into hospitals. She anticipates Blexx Technology to be able to undercut current costs by more than 20 percent.
Tenderholt is also assisted by a small advisory board of entrepreneurial and medical industry professionals, who provide feedback and insight to the collegiate entrepreneur.
“I considered dropping out of college, but I really couldn’t have created Blexx without being a college student – so many professionals and programs have helped me along the way,” Tenderholt said.
Blexx Technology has already garnered significant interest, winning first place and the “People’s Choice Award” in November 2018 at the Wisconsin Technology Council’s “Elevator Pitch Olympics,” as well as being featured on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Tenderholt hopes to leverage that interest and attention to help recruit a partner with industry and business development experience, in addition to someone with engineering and regulatory experience.
“I recognize that I’m only 22, and as much as my internships and classes have been valuable, it’s important to bring someone in with more senior experience,” Tenderholt said.
Blexx Technology is among the “Diligent Dozen” presenters in the 2019 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will culminate June 4-5 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee.
“It wasn’t even until college that I realized you could make positive social impact through business,” Tenderholt explained. “People always think I’m passionate about the healthcare industry, but really I’m passionate about helping people, and this is the avenue I chose.”
Mach graduated in May 2019 from the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.