By David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News Photo: Fotolia / The economic impact of San Antonio's healthcare ...
Members of the U.K. life sciences industry delegation don dark glasses to view 3-D digital anatomy images ...
By W. Scott Bailey, San Antonio Business Journal
Xenex Healthcare Services' Morris Miller says demand for the company's Room Disinfection System should continue to expand.
Health care experts across the globe are scrambling to attack the spread of hospital-associated infections, which are endangering lives and in some cases killing patients.
One San Antonio company, Xenex Healthcare Services, is providing new ammunition to hospitals to help them battle this alarming threat, and it's experiencing incredible financial growth as a result of those efforts.
Xenex completed the relocation of its headquarters and manufacturing operations from Austin to San Antonio in June. That move has coincided with a lucrative turn in its fortunes.
Xenex has a patented pulse xenon technology that it has incorporated into Room Disinfection System machines that destroy viruses, bacteria and bacterial spores that can cause hospital-associated infections. The company had the special machines in roughly two-dozen hospitals before it relocated to San Antonio. It now has machines in approximately 100 U.S. hospitals.
Xenex CEO Morris Miller says the company's revenues could approach $25 million in 2013 - more than twice what it earned last year.
Xenex, which was established in 2009, generated less than 1 million in revenues in 2011. "This (technology) works, and there is a need for what we do," says Miller, who was initially an angel investor in Xenex and who spearheaded the relocation of the company to San Antonio. "That's why we are growing so fast."
Xenex has limited competition in the marketplace. That has also contributed to its significant growth.
"We're working to keep up with the demand," Morris adds.
Patients contract nearly 2 million hospital-associated infections annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those infections cause nearly 100,000 deaths each year.
"This is a bigger problem than polio," Miller contends.
"Similar to all hospitals, we have had patients who acquired infections such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff)," says Dr. Joanne Levin, who heads up infection prevention for Cooley Dickenson Hospital in Northampton, Mass. "This organism can linger in patients' rooms. It lives in the environment for a long time. We've had some deaths.
"We decided to work with Xenex," Levin adds. "We have two of their machines."
Levin says Cooley Dickenson has seen a 53 percent decline in hospital-associated C. diff cases since reaching out to Xenex in early 2011. "That's a huge impact," she explains.
"We've had great success with Xenex. This technology represents a new paradigm for patient safety."
Xenex officials expect that the company will continue to see a dramatic spike in demand for its machines.
"The laws have changed," Miller explains. "Hospitals no longer get reimbursed when they cause infections."
The continued roll-out of federal health reform will bring additional changes that will likely drive more hospitals to seek help in eliminating more of these infections.
"The impact could be huge," Miller adds.
Xenex is also expanding its reach internationally. The company expects to have its machines in hospitals in Central America, Canada, England and potentially France by the end of the year, and is in discussions with health care officials in Australia, as well.
In an effort to keep up with increasing demand for its product, Xenex has had to shore up its workforce. The company had some 30 personnel before relocating to San Antonio. That number is now up to 50 and could reach 100 by the end of the year.
Company spokeswoman Melinda Hart says Xenex currently has approximately 11,000 square feet of space at its Northeast San Antonio headquarters and is in the process of securing an additional 1,600 square feet.
Upon learning last year that Xenex planned to make the move some 70 miles south to San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro said the company would give the city's bioscience industry more muscle.
"Xenex will complement San Antonio's existing assets and expertise in the field of Infectious Disease and will help us expand the local entrepreneurial talent pool that is vital to our 21st century economy," Castro said in June.
Xenex officials made the move, in part, because they felt there would be more support in San Antonio, where health care and the biosciences is the leading industry. Miller says BioMed SA leaders have been especially helpful.
"Doing business in San Antonio is easy," says Miller, who co-founded tech giant Rackspace Hosting. "We have felt very welcome here."
In addition to growing its workforce and revenues, Xenex has helped dispel some myths about San Antonio.
Morris says the company has had no trouble attracting qualified personnel since moving its operations to the Alamo City.
"It's been a great place to recruit employees," he says.
In fact, Morris says Austin employees who made the move with the company have been pleasantly surprised by how the infrastructure, cost of living and quality of life in San Antonio compare with what they were used to in the Capital City.
"It's been good reviews all around," he adds.