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Local retailers are offering St. John's Research Intitute's first research-to-market products, Hands First.
Local retailers are offering St. John's Research Intitute's first research-to-market products, Hands First.

St. John's aims to clean up in sanitizer market

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St. John’s Research Institute’s launch party Aug. 23 celebrated the first research project to travel from lab to market.

The next day, 200 cases of Hands First alcohol-free hand sanitizer hit store shelves, including inside 15 area retailers such as Price Cutter, Family Pharmacy and Grove Pharmacy. Its developers already have their eyes on nationwide distribution and a share of the hand-sanitizer market.

“Our target for the first year is a minimum of $1 million in product going out the door,” said institute director Dr. Roger Huckfeldt. “The real, long-term target is if we can manage to get 3 (percent) to 5 percent of the hand-sanitizer market.”

Helping hands
According to Food Safety News, the hand-sanitizer retail market in 2009 --– the year of the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic -– generated about $170 million. Huckfeldt and crew are taking a blanketed approach to get a slice of that market with Hands First. Inveno Health LLC, the commercialization arm for St. John’s Research Institute, started working on the process this spring, said operations manager Matt Price. Hands First is licensed to Springfield-based distributor Avadim II LLC, which specializes in health care products, he said. Nixa-based manufacturer Aire-Master of America Inc. is bottling and packaging the product, and the sales arm is Atlanta-based Promo Health, which is pitching Hands First to national chains.

Other potential partners are working to secure distribution to supply services and janitorial companies, government contracts and distribution through the fundraising market, Huckfeldt said.

An infomercial is in the works with Springfield-based Pulse Studios Inc., Price added. According to Huckfeldt, the infomercial will run in September in six undetermined test markets in preparation for a nationwide launch. The point of difference between Hands First and other hand sanitizers is that it is designed to work for three hours.

“The biggest benefit, besides being alcohol-free, is that it fights recontamination,” Huckfeldt said. “If you applied the hand sanitizer and then shook someone’s hand, even after that person just coughed into their hand, you would still be protected.”

Also, while many of its competitors instruct users not to use their products around cuts and scrapes, Hands First cleans inside the wound and lays down a protective film, Huckfeldt said.

The idea for a hand sanitizer with the benefits of Hands First came largely from a schoolteacher who asked Huckfeldt and his team, “Why can’t you give me product for kids, where I can apply it and then I don’t have to worry about it again until recess?”

St. John’s researchers already were studying hand sanitizer applications and had introduced alcohol-free Theraworx to the hospital and long-term care markets. The competency gained from forerunner Theraworx allowed for a relatively quick nine- to 12-month research-to-rollout timeframe for Hands First, Price said.

All bottled up
Aire-Master of America has been involved with Hands First in several ways, including offering input on its point-of-purchase displays and recommending local box manufacturer SMC Packaging, said vice president of operations Eric Reese.

“We are actively looking right now at sourcing all the raw materials for that product to where we would actually mix it from start to finish, rather than them supplying all the components,” Reese said. “We can leverage what we’re currently buying with our chemical suppliers, and we think we can help them get better pricing.”

Aire-Master has worked in contract packaging about 10 years, Reese said, noting that it often becomes a company’s manufacturing arm. While he declined to disclose client names -– Aire-Master is often asked to remain anonymous because its clients’ customers may try to go directly to the manufacturer – Reese said the company makes hand soaps and sanitizers for other labels, as well as scent-prevention products for the hunting industry. Aire-Master also has a four-year government contract to send hand soaps to be used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It’s the fastest growing part of our business right now,” he said, noting close to 30 percent of the company’s annual sales is in contract manufacturing and packaging.

While St. John’s took the time to celebrate the launch of Hands First, the research institute and Inveno staff also are looking to the future. “We have about 20 to 25 different projects we’re working on at any one time,” Price said. “We’re still going to be actively involved with Hands First, but we’re also working on others.”

The Secure 360 surgical positioning device for infants, is set to launch in September, Huckfeldt said, and the next generation of Hands First products is being discussed.

“We have another study we’re going to launch that is looking at its use on nurse’s hands,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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