In an otherwise normal time, hospitals generate more than 5 million tons of waste each year, according to Greenhealth. Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in short supply for the past two years and this has been widely reported some had to be reused what is usually a disposable item such as surgical gowns.
HONEYa Mexico-based startup wants to reduce this waste and replace single-use medical garments by creating a line of durable, virus-resistant, reusable pieces, including surgical gowns, head coverings and full-body suits.
The company was founded in 2020 by CEO Tamara Chayo, a Thiel chemist and collaborator whose family is in the medical and textile industries and has seen firsthand the need for PPE. She and her team began examining tissues to see which ones had the ability to capture viruses, and when they started getting positive test results from the lab, they formed MEDU.
The products are made of fabric, i.e certified level 4 AAMI PB70the highest protection against liquids and germs, providing maximum protection against particles, viruses and bacteria, she told TechCrunch.
The company has begun trials in Mexican hospitals, backed by an initial investment of $400,000, to test and validate the results and see if doctors like wearing the products.
“Doctors said ours were comfortable for them, but we made a lot of changes and learned from that experience,” Chayo said. “The products can be reused for up to 50 washes, so you can use the same dress instead of changing to another, which saves money and waste.”
To calculate these 50 washes, the clothes’ built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is tracked in real-time and healthcare practitioners are informed via a mobile app how many times the dress has been washed. After the 50 wears, the garment is returned to MEDU’s facilities, where it is then disinfected and turned into scrubs and sustainable packaging.
The company is profitable and continues to grow its revenue at a rate of 6x every month. Since January, it has deployed roughly 7,000 pieces of equipment, which Chayo says is equivalent to 3 million disposables.
By the end of 2022, the company aims to replace more than 20 million disposable PPE gowns and divert 6,000 tons of hospital waste from landfills or incinerators. The company has also doubled in size and is working with hospitals in New York and Los Angeles.
The supply chain continues to be a major challenge, and MEDU is among other startups that have come on the scene in the past two years to help hospitals and healthcare practitioners get the equipment and PPE they need. This includes bttnwhich raised $20 million in Series A funding in June for its medical supplies marketplace, enabling doctors to get the supplies they need faster and at better prices.
MEDU itself is now sitting on $4 million in seed funding in a round led by MaC Venture Capital, with participation from Halcyon Fund and a group of angel investors including Ryan Shea.
The funding gives the company fuel for growth as it expands its US operations and continues to develop its full-body suit. Chayo plans to partner with up to 15 hospitals in the US by the end of the year.
She explained that the decision to seek venture capital was to gain partners to help the company grow. She felt that MaC Venture Capital fit that bill—it was already an investor in healthcare companies—and would be able to give the company hands-on support as MEDU looked to improve and expand in the United States.
MEDU is working on US Food and Drug Administration approval for its clothing, which Chayo expects to happen later this year. It is also applying for approval in the European Union and will begin building relations in Israel. Meanwhile, the company already has approval in Mexico and is working with five hospitals there.
Chayo’s personality, courage and experience as a chemist with a family in the medical and textile industries made investing in MEDU “one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made,” Michael Palank, general manager of MaC Venture Capital, told TechCrunch.
“You can’t write that,” he added. “The traction that it has pre-FDA approval, including trials in some of the largest known hospitals in the US, but also those hospitals are introducing it to other hospitals, which is the best form of customer acquisition. MEDU is also doing well in Mexico, where it is in one of the country’s largest hospitals. It couldn’t be a more global company and it’s going to get very big quickly.”