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Hawthorne Materials Corp.
Hawthorne Materials Corp.

Founded in 2012 and using technology developed at Portland State University, Portland’s Hawthorne Materials Corp. develops bismuth-based X-ray contrast agents that image better and brighter than other agents currently used in the medical field.

The surgical sponge is healthcare’s most widely used tool. However, every year these seemingly harmless little squares cost hospitals millions and force patients back into the operating room. According to Russell Watt, co-founder of Hawthorne Materials, every year sponges account for fully two-thirds of all objects retained after surgery. In order to prevent this many surgical sponges come “tagged” with radiopaque materials. The contrast agents used to date, however, produce dull images that can be difficult to detect on an X-ray.

The chemical properties of the materials Hawthorne Materials uses to develop radiopaque tags create a much starker contrast than other materials, making it much more visible on an X-ray. If the tags developed by Hawthorne Materials were incorporated into surgical sponges, the visibility of the sponge, if one were lost during surgery, would be greater, increasing the chance of a healthcare professional locating it. Such a sponge could help improve the quality and decrease the cost of healthcare over time.

In the years since the technology that will enable Hawthorne Materials to produce radiopaque sponges was disclosed by PSU Professor Dr. Andrea Goforth, Innovation & Intellectual Property has worked with Hawthorne Materials to craft an exclusive licensing agreement, define markets and procure funding, and provide the general encouragement every startup needs to get off the ground.

“Working with technology developed at Portland State University,” Watt said, “has been a really positive and encouraging experience. It has helped us open doors and expand our network.”

Keep an eye open for Hawthorne Materials Corp. as they continue to make strides towards a cost-effective solution to an on going problem. The technology they are developing has the potential to not only make a significant difference in people’s lives, but to save them as well.