Meet Bactiguard’s innovator Billy Södervall

3 August 2015

Billy Södervall acquired his interest in chemistry and pharmacy early on. He started teaching chemistry and then he went over to working with heat pumps at NIBE AB, where he created the innovation that formed the foundation for Bactiguard. Billy always felt his work was also his hobby, explaining why his garage at home in Markaryd is converted into a laboratory. Because, when he gets an idea, Billy just has to try it out right away.

A unique solution

Billy Södervall, the innovator behind our technology is still active in developing the unique concentrate of noble metals that is the Bactiguard® coating. The formula, kept in a safe deposit box, is a well-kept secret.

Clinical data from over 40 studies confirm that our coating is preventing bacterial adhesion and reduces infections. It is the special composition of metals that creates this effect, says Billy Södervall, Senior Technical Advisor and Inventor of the Bactiguard Technology.

The surface layer of noble metals in the Bactiguard coating is preventing healthcare associated infections by reducing bacterial adhesion on the catheter’s surface. The important difference from competing products is that the coating does not kill any bacteria, an important property since this doesn’t kill helpful bacteria either. What makes the coating unique is that it is both efficient, tissue friendly and patient safe since the coating essentially releases no metals. The current product portfolio includes catheters for the urinary tract, respiratory tract and the bloodstream.

From the beginning I knew our unique coating had unlimited application potential. The coating can basically be applied to everything that comes into contact with bodily fluids. If I were to make any wish, it would be that the entire dialysis sector could use it, says Billy Södervall.

Based on a Swedish innovation

The seeds to Mr. Södervall’s innovation came while he was working as environmental and chemistry head at NIBE. There, he entered collaboration with innovator Axel Bergström, who had previously studied under Nobel Laureate in physics Gustaf Dalén. Mr. Södervall and Mr Bergström were tasked to develop a thin metallic coating for glass and ceramics that could be heated.

 I am very thankful for the years I had working with Axel. It gave me a broad spectrum experience for how to work with production, and coatings using various materials, says Billy Södervall.

The idea for a surface coating was conceived in 1978 when Mr. Södervall came in contact with the Swedish central healthcare purchasing organ, where he first heard about the problems with healthcare associated infections associated with the use of urinary catheters.

This was an eye-opener for me, and the impetus to seriously start developing products. I went to my CEO at NIBE with the idea, but his response was that the company worked on water heaters, and not healthcare products. Then I decided to do this in my spare time, says Billy Södervall.

A success in the USA and Japan

Convinced that his coating on catheters could prevent healthcare associated infections, Billy contacted several Swedish medtech companies. But none of these would back the idea. His first positive response waited until 1983 – after he was introduced to an employee at the American medtech company C.R. Bard. The first urinary catheter with a thin coating of noble metals was finally approved by the US FDA in 1994. Then, sales grew quickly.

 When you develop something like this, you have to rely on your feelings, dare to try new angles, and give it 100%. It is a common saying that after launching a new product, competitors will appear within 18 months, which usually leads to a slowdown in sales. But after 20 years of sales through C.R. Bard, there still isn’t any significant competition. And, we have not seen a slowdown in sales either, not in Japan or the USA where we are market leaders, says Billy Södervall.

Billy has lifetime employment as innovator at Bactiguard.

The biggest advantage of working for Bactiguard is that I can keep working on developing the technology and create new innovations, says Billy Södervall.