Time Magazine Vol. 167 No. 12

Time Magazine - Index: March 20, 2006 Vol. 167 No. 12
Sunday, Mar. 12, 2006
What's Next? The Next Big Thing Is Us....
Innovators / Epidemiology: Forging the Future
Microbe-Busting Bandages

What do jock itch, poison gas and flesh-eating bacteria have in common? Gregory Schultz, 56, thinks he has the answer. The cancer researcher turned inventor has patented a technique for chemically bonding bacteria-fighting polymers to such fabrics as gauze bandages, cotton T shirts and men's underpants. It's a technology with an unusually wide variety of uses, from underwear that doesn't stink to hospital dressings that thwart infections.

Schultz's bandages, coated with positively charged antimicrobial molecules, dramatically reduce the risk of infection, he says, and as a bonus can prevent outbreaks of the drug-resistant staph infections that have been racing through U.S. hospitals. "It basically punches holes in the bacteria," he says, "and they pop like balloons."

Schultz and his partners at the University of Florida slipped into the wound-healing business in a roundabout way. Schultz was studying uncontrolled cancer growth and teaching biochemistry at the University of Louisville in 1985 when a student who had worked in a burn unit suggested that the way cells respond to cancer could point to a new method to help burn victims heal without their wounds becoming infected. The notion intrigued Schultz and led to the invention of his antibacterial bandages 20 years later.

One of the hottest potential applications for Schultz's invention is fighting burns from sulfur mustard, which was Saddam Hussein's poison gas of choice. (He deployed it against Iraq's Kurds and stockpiled it for use on coalition troops.) The U.S. Army has asked Schultz and his company, Quick-Med Technologies of Gainesville, Fla., to develop a dressing that could be used to treat sulfur-mustard blisters. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has ordered up $1 million worth of research into a mustard-gas ointment. "It's all the same technology," says Schultz. "It's just adapted for different uses."

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