Success Story

Hand-Held Instrument Fights Acne, Tops Over-the-Counter Market

While best known for groundbreaking innovations that expand our knowledge of the universe, technology created at NASA is also responsible for everyday items that better our daily lives.

Technology transfer (T2) allows industry professionals the chance to work with federal agencies such as NASA to bring innovations made in federal labs into commercial use. Licensed technologies, test facilities, and even the knowledge of NASA teams are opened to industry through the T2 process.

Houston-based medical technologies company Tyrell Inc. utilized NASA engineering professionals to help redesign a heating element found in an in-home acne-fighting device, according to NASA’S Spinoff publication. The idea came from company founder Robert Conrad, who while working at a biological testing firm experimented with growing bacteria colonies and then shocking them with heat to kill bacteria. Conrad began considering the same treatment for the bacteria that creates pimples.

Conrad created a working prototype that proved to be too large and too expensive to manufacture. With guidance from business accelerator Houston Technology Center, Conrad contacted NASA through the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program.

With NASA’s help, Conrad created a smaller device with an improved 5-volt heating element resistant to oils and acids. The outreach program then pointed Conrad to Allen Saad of Boeing, who helped reduce the cost of the unit and pave the way to commercialization, bringing the new Zeno portable acne treatment system to the market. Conrad said NASA’s help is what brought Zeno from a prototype to the market.

Zeno was named NASA’S Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program success story of the year in 2006.