Dayton-based company aims to save lives by improving organ transportation
From the Wright Brothers and Eddie Rickenbacker to Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, Ohio has a long history of pioneering aviation and air transport. Dayton-based VyrtX may just be the next company working toward that evolution, and they’re doing it with life-saving potential. The goal of VyrtX is to change the way organs are transported to and from hospitals, eventually creating a drone-delivery network that could save precious minutes, making the difference between a successful and unsuccessful transplant.
“Twenty people die every day in need of an organ transplant, so minutes matter dramatically in saving a person’s life,” said Alice Cummings, COO of VyrtX. “It takes a lot of time to transport, receive, analyze and physically transplant an organ. VyrtX introduces a faster, better way of getting organs to people for procedures that can save lives.”
The current process of organ delivery and transportation can be complicated and slow. Though you can use a smartphone app to have pizzas delivered and packages sent across the country, transporting an organ still requires a combination of untracked drives, flights and handoffs that leaves the process stuck in the 20th century.
“If you need to get a heart or kidney to a hospital in an hour’s time, that’s a process that exists for many businesses but not for organs,” said Cummings. “The process is very clunky and complicated. I have to call to schedule the ground car, book a ticket and schedule a flight, have a human take it off baggage claim, and have that last courier drive it to the hospital. If we had a way to streamline that with software, like Google Maps or Uber, it would be much easier, especially for nurses working 24-hour shifts trying to figure out how to get an organ delivered for transplant.”
The VyrtX vision is ambitious. The company is working with Dayton’s Air Force Research Laboratory and the Springfield Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center to develop an “air corridor” across the state that would facilitate the country’s quickest transportation of organs without involving human pilots or drivers. VyrtX is collaborating with autonomous hardware vendors, and is already testing a process using a modified Cessna 206, a fixed-wing aircraft that can fly autonomously for two hours. Testing for the air corridor, called “MedCOR,” is planned for early 2020.
“What we’re really hoping to do is introduce drones in an air corridor unique to Ohio,” said Cummings. “We want it to act as a highway system because that’s how people drive and how things move. Ohio will really be the first state in America to do this, and we’re trying to make it happen very soon. We want Ohio to be the first to create a highway in the sky.”
All of America could benefit from drone-delivered organs, and Ohio leaders are championing VyrtX’s air corridor. The company has received grant funding from Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Start-up Fund to begin testing their prototypes, and are taking advantage of Ohio’s many aeronautic resources.
“Ohio has so many resources and organizations, which is a huge help in starting a company,” said Cummings. “A big reason for our success has been the Air Force Research Laboratory because they were 100 percent supportive of the vision of VyrtX. The UAS Center has also been second to none. We’ve worked with their entire team and they have a vision for this corridor. They’ve brought in all the people and components to make this a reality. The support in Ohio has been tremendous.”