Vioguard Pioneers Germ Zapping Technology for Computer Keyboards

Patients in hospitals are there to seek treatment and get better. Sadly, the cure can be worse than the ailment when patients contract a hospital acquired infection. Deadly germs are routinely spread throughout hospitals by the very people who swore to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and never do harm. That is because the practice of high-tech medicine now involves the use of shared computer keyboards, which if not properly cleaned after each use, can transmit harmful bacteria.

The good news is that a solution to this problem is simple: a computer keyboard that self-sanitizes by zapping potentially deadly germs with ultraviolet light. The technology could help prevent the spread of nasty bacterial invaders like Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus     (MRSA) in hospitals and other institutions with shared computer facilities. That is the idea behind Vioguard, a Kirkland company co-founded by serial entrepreneur Larry Ranta and his nephew Craig Ranta, a former hardware engineering director at Microsoft. Larry serves as Vioguard’s president and  CEO, while Craig is the chief technology officer.

Vioguard was founded in June 2008 and now has seven employees. Ranta has been around the block with startups for the past 25 years. He seems to have hit on something big with Vioguard. Hospitals are especially motivated to rid their environments of deadly bacteria like MRSA and Clostridium dfficile (C. Diff) which are seeing fast-growing incidence. About 30 to 40 cases of C. Diff bacteria (which causes horrible and sometimes fatal cases of diarrhea) were reported per 100,000 people discharged from hospitals in 2001, and that figure tripled to about 100 cases per 100,000 discharges in 2005, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another figure that is very disturbing is that over 1.4 million people per year contract an infection during their hospital stay, and that these infections cause 100,000 deaths per year. What is sad is that many of these infections can be prevented.

Hospital administrators know that bugs like these can spread from the hands of healthcare workers onto common areas like keyboards. What’s special about Vioguard’s patent pending technology is the construction of the desktop keyboard. It slides into an enclosed chamber to sanitize the keyboard after each and every use. It uses two 25-watt ultraviolet bulbs that Ranta says kill 99.99 percent of germs, like MRSA, in seconds or ten times faster than any liquid disinfectant.

The keyboard system is expected to sell for around $699. By comparison, hospitals are currently spending in excess of $40 billion in the area of infection control. Ranta feels that hospitals can save tens of millions of dollars per year by using the Vioguard keyboard. Shipments will begin soon, after final FDA approval is secured, which is expected to be within the next month or two.

The company moved to Kirkland’s Parkplace about a year ago when its prior landlord in Bothell sought a substantial rent increase. Parkplace offered the company a lower lease rate and more flexibile terms. Ranta said that he and his employees like being in Kirkland.

The company is privately held. Ranta is actively seeking private investment capital to fund the next phase of the company’s growth that will include manufacturing and marketing.

Vioguard LLC 401 Parkplace Center Suite 200 Kirkland, WA 98033 425.318.7900