Xenex robot uses UV light to sterilize a hospital room.
Xenex robot uses UV light to sterilize a hospital room. Credit: Courtesy / Xenex

Xenex, a San Antonio medical technology startup, scored some major national attention Monday afternoon on Here and Now, a news program produced by WBUR-FM in Boston and distributed by National Public Radio.

The five-year-old company builds germ-zapping robots to disinfect hospital rooms, senior care communities, and other places where invisible infectious viruses threaten the lives of patients and residents.

The 3:43 minute report on Xenex was reported by Wendy Rigby of San Antonio’s Texas Public Radio, which aired the segment locally on Feb. 23. It was broadcast by Here and Now during its Thursday program.

Xenex is the brainchild of two Johns Hopkins epidemiologists Dr. Mark Stibich and Dr. Julie Stachowiak who were backed by local attorney and on of the co-founders of Rackspace, Morris Miller. Morris and Graham Weston backed the Trinity University students a San Antonio attorney credited as one of the co-founders of Rackspace, a designation he earned by first introducing Trinity students Dirk Elmendorf, Pat Condon, and Richard Yoo, the creative trio behind Rackspace. Weston wen on to became the startup’s principal funder, biggest shareholder and chairman.

If Xenex sounds familiar to Rivard Report readers, you might remember the first significant story published on the company that appeared here four years ago next week, headlined Made in San Antonio Robots Zap Deadly Hospital Infections.

The article was written by John Burnam, a Trinity University grad and freelance contributor who went on to become a co-founder of the nonprofit consulting group Burnam/Gray, which does development work for the Rivard Report, among many other local nonprofits, and manages the annual Big Give SA campaign.

When Burnam and Robert Rivard first visited Xenex’s offices and small assembly factory at 121 Interpark near the San Antonio International Airport, Miller and his sales team were spending a lot of time meeting with skeptical hospital operators, most of whom still relied on humans wiping down patient rooms to disinfect them. Many were slow to give a try to the new robots that use pulsating, ultraviolet light to kill germs that live on door knobs, counters, and other commonly touched surfaces.

Morris had medical facilities ranging from Harvard Medical School to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston trying out the technology, but he had no customers in San Antonio. Yet early research showed institutional users reduced the incidence of in-patient infections by more than 50%.

Today, according to TPR’s Rigby, more than 400 hospitals here and abroad rely on the Xenex robots, which retail for around $100,000 each, and locally, University Hospital and Morningside Ministries, a nonprofit operator of senior care communities, are customers.

Xenex employs more than 100 people in San Antonio.

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San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.