Durham's PurThread Technologies raises $7 million

dranii@newsobserver.comNovember 5, 2013 

Textile startup PurThread Technologies has raised $7 million to spread the word about its innovative antimicrobial fabric.

“It’s time that more people know what PurThread has to offer,” said Lisa Grimes, CEO of the Durham-based company.

The company, which has eight employees supplemented by more than 15 full-time and part-time contractors, also plans to increase its investment in research and development. With the new funding in hand, PurThread has raised more than $11 million to date.

PurThread fabric is embedded with a proprietary antimicrobial agent that kills bacteria and doesn’t wash out after repeated laundering, unlike competing products that feature an antimicrobial agent that is applied to the fabric.

The company launched its first products for hospitals – privacy curtains, lab coats, scrubs, blankets and sheets – about two months ago. It also sells yarn for sports apparel and is seeking corporate partners that can help it expand into other markets.

Grimes declined to disclose sales figures but said she is pleased with the market reception.

However, PurThread isn’t marketing its fabric’s antimicrobial properties because that requires U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval. Gaining that approval is “our longer-term goal,” but additional testing is needed first, Grimes said.

In the meantime, given that bacteria cause odor, PurThread is touting the “freshness” of its fabric. Grimes said the company has received testimonials from customers who have worn a PurThread shirt for two or three weeks, “and it still has no odor.”

PurThread is working with Cary agency R+M to develop a branding strategy, Grimes said.

PurThread’s fabric is produced by contract manufacturers – all of which are based in the U.S., including some in North Carolina, Grimes said.

The company’s latest round of funding was led by co-founder and Chairman Richard S. Bodman, a former senior vice president at AT&T. He is managing partner of VMS Group, a Naples, Fla., company that works with venture capital funds.

“I really like businesses that are doing something dramatically different from what’s been done before,” Bodman said. “This one fits that case.”

PurThread chose Durham as the site for its headquarters last year. The company previously operated virtually.

Grimes, who joined the company in July, is a former vice president of business development for contract research organization PPD. She also was CEO of InSite Clinical Trials, a company that assembled networks of doctors to test experimental drugs, which was acquired by United Healthcare.

Grimes said her “due diligence” before accepting the CEO job included a touch test in which she compared 20 pieces of of fabric – half of which were PurThread, but she didn’t know which was which.

Grimes said she couldn’t feel any difference.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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