La Jolla company's invention could enhance N95, surgical masks

Posted at 4:47 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 21:13:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Those N95 respirators relied upon by frontline health workers could soon be getting an upgrade, thanks to a La Jolla company's invention.

Amid the pandemic, N95 masks are mainstays on the front line, filtering out some 95% of airborne particles. A potential weakness: where the masks line up to the face. Certain facial hair, for example, can mess with the seal.

Those are some of the concerns tackled by La Jolla-based Virushield and it's new TS-40, a specially designed medical-grade foam seal.

"It holds into the cavity of the N95 seal. It doesn't have an adhesive. It doesn't need one. Once the seal is applied to your face with the face mask, the pressure of the straps will hold it onto your face very comfortably," said Vice President Reef Mowers.

Operations Consultant Jonathan Martin says scientific testing shows the product reduces leakage by some 75%.

"A better fit led to a better seal and less leakage of unfiltered air coming into and out the mask," said Martin.

Martin says it's reusable and can be cleaned. Mowers says doctors at hospitals like Scripps who have tested it have loved the comfort aspect.

"Compare it to having a piece of sandpaper on your face rather than pillow. You've seen the months of photos of medical workers wearing masks. Bleeding, scarring, and now people are getting staph infections," said Mowers.

Virushield also plans to launch a similar foam seal for a conventional surgical mask.

"Inside face mask it creates a cushion between face and paper element. It's helps speech and comfort," said Mowers.

The company says that seal will reduce leakage by some 25%. Both products could hit the market in the next few weeks.

"Very safe to say there is a significant amount of interest in our product," said Martin.

Martin isn't giving specifics about sales orders, but he says the company has the ability to ship 250,000 units for each device in one week, all manufactured in California.

The N95 mask enhancement will cost $7.99 a unit, while the one for the surgical mask will be $4.99 a unit.