By NATHAN PILLING
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash.
Perhaps the best pitch for Solius might be a glance to the sky on one of the Pacific Northwest’s sullen, drizzly January mornings.
Over the last few years the Bainbridge startup has been quietly working on a concept close to the hearts of many around Puget Sound come the region’s dreary winter months: finding a way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
“Science shows us that without it we get more sickness, more disease, athletes have more injuries and the people that we love, they die earlier,” Solius CEO Rick Hennessey said. Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem affecting 2.5 billion people, according to the company.
Solius’s proposal? Set aside supplements, which aren’t always effective, step out of the sun’s harmful rays, Hennessey said, and spend a few minutes a month inside one of the company’s treatment pods, which shine an isolated spectrum of light designed to promote production of vitamin D.
Solius uses a complex system of filters and optics to shine a 4-nanometer spectrum of UVB spectrum and nearly eliminate harmful UVA rays, according to the company. Solius claims that in less than 5 minutes, it can help to produce over 10 times more vitamin D than an hour of midday summer sunlight.
The result: “safe sun,” Hennessey said.
“We produce in our studies about 10 times the amount of vitamin D than the sun, but with a thousand times less energy,” he said. “It’s built to be extremely effective and safe.”
Company representatives are quick to note that their machine hasn’t yet been approved as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration, but in the early testing they’ve done at Solius, they’ve seen promising results, they said.
“Humans need some very simple things: fresh air, clean water, proper nutrition and sunlight,” Hennessey said. “If you take any one of those things away or degradate them in any way, humans suffer, they get sicker, they get more disease, they get more cancer, they get more depression, they get more injuries, the list goes on and on. We feel like we’re a big part of some core components.”
At this point, the only way to try one of the devices is to sign up for the company’s current clinical trial on Bainbridge Island. Over the course of a three-month period, enrollees will undergo about 10 treatments and will have blood drawn before and after the trial to show the device’s impact on their body, Solius Chief Revenue Officer Kyle Diercks said. The trial will cost $50 per month, he said.
Within the next few weeks, the company plans to go to market at its first location in Canada, a compounding pharmacy in Vancouver, British Columbia. After FDA approvals, the company plans to go to market throughout the United States and eventually internationally.
The company doesn’t plan to sell the devices, Diercks said. It plans to build and own them in common locations: the gym, at a pharmacy, at your corporate office and locations where one can stop in on a lunch break for a few minutes.
Consumers will set up a time and customize their experience on a smartphone app and will be charged a monthly fee to use the device, likely three to four times a month.
“We take this device to a location that would accessible to the public, in a place they can get to quickly, in an environment they are comfortable with, in an affordable way,” Diercks said.
Beyond vitamin D production, the company sees a future in which its devices could be used to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases, like psoriasis and eczema, or conditions like acne, Hennessey said.
Solius also sees applications for athletes and soldiers. Hennessey likens the company’s future to being the “Starbucks of healthcare,” where people need and want to come back “because it makes you feel good,” he said.