Israel’s StemRad Ltd., which has developed a belt to protect users from deadly radiation and nuclear threats, has secured up to $6 million in funding led by Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Florida hockey team Tampa Bay Lightning.
StemRad will use the funds raised from the C financing round to expand StemRad’s sales and marketing efforts, as well as its manufacturing capabilities in the US. StemRad recently opened its US subsidiary in Tampa, Florida, and has started to expand its sales from the military industry to first responders and the nuclear energy industry.
The investment proceeds will also be directed to the company’s research and development efforts, which are now turning to creating a lightweight protection vest for interventional radiologists in hospitals and medical clinics worldwide to address ergonomic problems caused by current X-ray aprons, the company said.
“This additional capital gives StemRad the resources to expand sales into new markets and to continue to innovate in order to become a leader throughout the entire spectrum of radiation protection including the nuclear, defense, space and medical industries,” said the firm’s CEO Oren Milstein in a statement.
The Israeli-American company was set up after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, to develop a solution for the protection of first responders exposed to highly-penetrating gamma radiation emitted in such events.
StemRad’s approach has been that of not protecting the whole body, but of selectively protecting organs with exceptional sensitivity to radiation, like bone marrow in the hip or in the vertebrae and the gastrointestinal system. “We protect the areas that are rich in stem cells,” Milstein said in a phone interview.
Exposure to gamma radiation results in radiation sickness, the accelerated destruction of the blood cells and the inability of the body to replenish them, due to the damage sustained to bone marrow, which is needed to generate new cells. Fifty percent of the body’s bone marrow is located in the groin and midsection areas of the body — and that is exactly the part of the body the StemRad belt protects, ensuring that rescue workers are protected against the effects of radiation sickness but are able to maintain freedom of movement needed to assist others.
StemRad has also adapted its technology to the protection of astronauts in partnership with Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for its deep space Orion capsule. A StemRad vest will be launched around the moon on board NASA’s Orion for radiation testing as soon as 2019, on the EM1 Mission.