Sunday, February 28, 2010
By Debra Erdley, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Nearly a decade after it kicked into high gear with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the race to develop reliable ways to detect and identify biological and chemical threats is bearing fruit for Pittsburgh entrepreneurs.
Kevin Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of Health Monitoring Systems Inc., a start-up company in the Riverside Innovation Center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, said the concept for his company’s EpiCenter grew out of research done at the University of Pittsburgh.
EpiCenter, a monitoring system now used in about 350 hospitals in 15 states, collects and monitors hospital data for public health systems. It flags conditions and patterns to give early alerts to potential public health threats or bioterrorism. In 2007, when there was a national botulism outbreak, Hutchinson said EpiCenter detected early that there was an unusual trend in hospital admissions.
Although the company is small, Hutchinson said he sees a great demand for the technology it began offering four years ago.
“What we’re seeing now is a need for active surveillance. The challenge to public health is so dynamic, we don’t know what will come next. We provide a rapid turnaround to what’s actually happening in a community,” Hutchinson said.