Science & Technology

An Israeli Entrepreneur Finds A New Solution To An Age-Old Problem

A radically new, safe, end effective, lice treatment solution will hit the markets soon if an Israeli company has its way

3D model of the Sphinx lice removal device

In this day and age, at least in technologically advanced societies, we could expect to have finally won the war against parasites that have infested us from the time that there was an “us”. Alas, our expectations are dashed against the rocky shores of reality. While bedbugs are making a comeback in urban areas, it is head lice, our millennial companion species that has come back with a true vengeance. In poor areas an in affluent ones, in private and public schools alike, lice are everywhere.

While being infested with a parasite is bad enough, the social stigma, especially for young kids, is even worse. Recent so-called “zero tolerance” policies adopted in many if not most North American school systems make things that much more painful. These policies are often accompanied by semi-public or even public head examinations in the nurse’s office and even a single shell of a solitary nit is enough to send little Johnny or Mary back home and have their parents receive the bad news at work: “your workday is finished, you’d better come and pick your kid up”.

I could go into things like market size for lice treatments et cetera and doubtless these considerations have their place, but to me it is a simple matter of self-respect. Isn’t our species sufficiently advanced to once and for all come up with a clean, environmentally sound, painless, and non-humiliating solution to the problem of head lice?

Currently available solutions rely on immersing the hair of the afflicted person, most commonly a small child, in a chemical that is poisonous to lice and would doubtlessly be poisonous to humans if ingested, followed by rigorous combing with fine-tooth combs. These solutions are dangerous to both the patient and the caregiver as evidenced by the mandatory waiting periods between treatments. In addition, they are both painful and humiliating and thus do not rise to the bar of being painless, environmentally sound, or safe. On the contrary, they seem to be designed to fail on all these counts. Most damningly, however, they simply do not work well enough. With the need for repeated applications and never a guarantee of killing all the mature and juvenile lice as well as the nits, these solutions are popular simply because there are no better ones available and something must be done to get rid of the lice.

Now it appears that soon something much better will indeed be available. Doron Kenigbuch, an Israeli entrepreneur and his Stage I startup Sphinx Smarthead Technologies have developed a lice treatment solution that uses no chemicals, kills all lice and nits, and requires no fine-tooth combing. The patent-pending technology relies on heating the targeted areas where lice and nits live, between just near the scalp and about a quarter inch up the hair stem, to a high temperature while using localized cooling to prevent any discomfort to the patient. This temperature, while immediately deadly to lice and nits is completely safe for hair, in fact, it is much lower than that routinely achieved by blow dryers and other hair styling devices.

The treatment consists of simply passing a device that looks like a beard trimmer for men through the patient’s hair, making sure that no area remains untreated. The spacing between the comb teeth is wider than any styling comb, making the process completely free of discomfort for even the fullest and longest hair.

The company has just finished its incubation stage and is now in possession of the first beta prototype. Currently Sphinx is focused on design for manufacturability and cost optimization for mass production. These activities require partnerships with potential manufacturers and further funding, which the company hopes to raise via a variety of vehicles including government programs and private funding by individual investors. The finished product is expected to hit the shelves in 2021.

Sphinx Promotional Video

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