ORLANDO, Fla. – Have you ever waited in line and noticed the person in front of you was obviously ill?
Orlando Health biorepository manager Todd Roberts had that experience about 10 years ago while waiting to sign in at a health clinic. It was a moment, he said, that changed the way he thought about germs.
“The person directly in front of me was really sick, I could tell from the way they were coughing,” Roberts said.
In his line of work, Roberts is especially keen on details. The Orlando Health biorepository collects tissue specimens for researchers to study on a molecular level.
So, he sees the small stuff.
"I kept an eye on the pen as it traveled through and when it finally came my turn, they handed me the same pen and I said, ‘I’m sorry I can’t touch this pen,’” Roberts said.
The pen was then individually cleaned with an alcohol wipe.
"I started thinking maybe there's a better way to do this, and then it just popped into my head,” Roberts said.
The wheels were in motion, and Roberts said he went home and started talking over an idea for a sanitizing device with his children.
"I started building it in the garage, the first rendition,” Roberts said.
It took about 10 years to perfect his idea, which he named the CleanBlock.
"I want people to think about ocean, when they see it,” Roberts said, holding two blue and green cubes that can be stuck vertically to a wall, or rested on a countertop.
The gel formula inside each CleanBlock is made with a concentration that is 70% ethyl alcohol, a higher concentration than 64-65% sanitizing gels that are considered hospital grade.
“They don't have to plug it in, they don't need electricity, just swipe it through and they can swipe it through at least 1,400 times,” Roberts said.
And the biggest selling point, according to Roberts, is in the data. Recent studies have shows at least 37 percent of all pens are contaminated.
After being chosen by the Orlando Health Foundry program in 2018, Roberts’ invention is ready to distribute.
"He submitted his idea to our Foundry program for consideration and so that program takes early stage concepts, prototypes them and gets them to where we can test them at Orlando Health and hopefully sell them to other people,” Michael Schmidt, managing director of Orlando Health’s Strategic Innovations, said.
Schmidt said Orlando Health plans to roll out the CleanBlock across high-traffic areas including waiting rooms, registration and nurses stations. Roberts said he hopes it will soon expand to schools, banks, gyms, and anywhere people need to pick up a pen.