As COVID-19 began to spread, InnovaPrep could almost immediately see the reason why — and it’s a realization that has gained the startup some serious traction, explained David Alburty.
“All the puzzle pieces fit neatly in place for us. The high transmission rate without definitive contact was one of the biggest tells,” added Alburty, the Drexel, Missouri-based company’s CEO, referencing the startup’s realization that it needed to find a way to combat aerosol transmission of the virus.
“The solutions are to monitor where you have to maintain close spacing and have trouble with strategic dispersal — what others might call ‘social distancing,’” he explained, highlighting InnovaPrep’s Bobcat air sampler and its ability to capture an airborne virus in any space and identify it.
Click here to read more about InnovaPrep’s COVID-era pivots.
“The Black & Veatch IgniteX Accelerator has been a hotbed of collaboration with B&V as well as other companies in the cohort,” Alburty said of the experience, which also welcomed local startups EB Systems, MySidewalk, and Motega Health.
“Black & Veatch has been very open and forthcoming, sharing our view that we are all here to help and do as much as we can to help fight COVID — using the tools that engineering and science can bring to bear,” he added.
Click here to learn more about the Black & Veatch IgniteX COVID-19 Response Accelerator.
In the case of InnovaPrep, that means searching for COVID in an unlikely place, he added.
“We’ve seen a great demand for our Concentrating Pipette [and its] use in wastewater-based epidemiology — finding SARS in sewers,” Alburty said, detailing the startup’s latest focus as it exits the Black & Veatch program and looks to double its team for a second time in the course of the pandemic.
“[This work has] required us to do a lot of internal research and development to help develop methods to concentrate viruses from wastewater for labs working in this field — since it hadn’t been done before using modern methods,” he said, noting with InnovaPrep, there’s an automated solution in the modern world of microbiology and scientists couldn’t be happier, he continued.
“I am certainly surprised, and glad that we can help. It’s our mission in life to make the world a better and safer place for people and animals,” Alburty said of the opportunity to play a role in fighting COVID-19.
Meeting demand has the company rapidly scaling its operations. InnovaPrep has more than doubled its production team since April, and construction to nearly triple production cleanroom space will be completed in the next few weeks.
Click here to learn more about InnovaPrep.
“We plan to continue to push forward with new initiatives in wastewater-based epidemiology and aerosol monitoring,” Alburty said. “We are even working on an open innovation project based on using a new product to sample breath and give early warning of infection, while providing the user with protection.”
As 2021 nears, Alburty said he’s optimistic to see InnovaPrep’s continued success in the fight against COVID, but also for its return to less critical problem solving.
“While we had been working continuously in biodefense and public health for the government, our tools were more widely used in commercial fields — including environmental research, consumer products quality, and even for brewing better beer,” he explained, noting ongoing contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense that have become key revenue drivers.
“The opportunity to layer on new customers through COVID response means that we will continue much in the same vein as we have in 2020. I hope the environmental research and beer quality assurance proceeds again in 2021 as we gain some control over the spread of COVID. Better beer is always a good thing!”