StemRad, an Israeli tech company with its U.S. subsidiary in Tampa, is expanding its line of radiation protective gear used in outer space and the military to help physicians and other health care providers avoid harmful radiation exposure back down on earth.
StemRad MD, developed for physicians and their teams, is based on new technology that transfers weight away from the wearer. It is currently made in Israel with future plans to manufacture in-part or in-whole in the United States.
“What we've done is created an exoskeleton that lifts the shielding off of the body. It essentially floats on the body and transfers the weight into the floor,” says StemRad COO Jack Ross.
Ross co-Founded the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) in Tampa in 2016 and served as its executive director until 2017 before joining StemRad. FIBA runs its operations out of the Bryan Glazer Family JCC on Howard Avenue in West Tampa.
“When FIBA was created in 2016, the vision was to transform the Tampa Bay area into a nationally recognized hub of high-tech enterprise by attracting Israeli startups to the region,” says Ross.
In FIBA’s inaugural year, it worked with eight startups trying to achieve that vision, including StemRad. StemRad’s products were being designed to protect from radiation while giving individuals the mobility and comfort needed to perform tasks critical to their missions safely and efficiently.
Ross got to know StemRad and its CEO and co-Founder Oren Milstein and decided to make a personal investment in the pioneering company by becoming VP, North America.
Impressed by the expansion of StemRad to include the civilian market, Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and local investor, led a round of funding that raised $6 million in 2017.
With support from Vinik, who is now lead investor, everything started to come together, Ross says.
“With his investment, and with the history of having participated in the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator and the relationship with Space Florida, all the stars aligned and the decision was made to headquarter here.”
StemRad MD, the product creating protection for healthcare workers, now consumes most of the company’s time because it’s brand new to the market.
“We did a soft roll out in Hollywood, Florida last month [January], and we're debuting the exoskeleton to the interventional radiology community in Seattle at the Society of Interventional Radiology, SIR, Conference at the end of March.”
StemRad's 360 Gamma product already protects military combatants, first responders, and civilians in a variety of scenarios, including nuclear weapon detonation, radiological dispersal devices, and nuclear reactor operations. It has recently been sold and deployed to both nuclear reactors in Florida (St. Lucie and Turkey Point) for NextEra Energy’s Florida Power & Light. The 360 Gamma is manufactured at AGORA in St. Pete.
StemRad’s collaboration with Lockheed Martin and NASA began in 2015 to create protective gear specifically for astronauts. Space missions, such as NASA’s trip to and from Mars and the moon, require the protection of the AstroRad, which was co-developed with Lockheed Martin.
Once beyond the protective barrier of the Earth’s atmosphere, the threat of harmful levels of radiation increases dramatically. The longer the astronaut spends in space, the higher the chances of also being exposed to solar flare -- a brief eruption of intense high-energy radiation from the sun's surface.
While StemRad opened its U.S. subsidiary in Tampa in 2017 and now maintains an office inside Embarc Collective, research and development are conducted in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ross says there are many things that Florida and the Tampa Bay region offer to make StemRad work in Tampa.
“It's the cost of living, the East Coast time zone, and international ports and airport, access to talent -- everything that a startup would need and want,” explains Ross.
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