A “Game-Changing” Antimicrobial Technology

Entrepreneur commercializes ‘game-changing’ antimicrobial technology

Sioux Falls, SD (December 16, 2014) – Greg Bertsch brings a unique but relevant background to his role as the leader of a startup company.  He has experience in both science and business.

Bertsch is the president, chief executive officer and majority owner of Antimicrobial Materials Inc. (AMI), a tenant of the South Dakota Technology Business Center in Sioux Falls. AMI is licensing University of South Dakota technology and developing ways to make materials such as fabrics, plastics and coatings self-disinfecting.

Proprietary treatments are used to bind chlorine (i.e. bleach) into materials to kill bacteria, infections, viruses, molds and other undesired microorganisms on an extended basis.

In this form, chlorine is nonreactive to human skin, says Bertsch, so the process is safe and could significantly advance the sanitizing of materials such as carpets, bedding and medical scrub suits. In addition, chlorine can be recharged with each washing using soap, water, and dilute bleach. “I think this is a game-changer,” he says.

He has bachelor and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, and he is working on a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of South Dakota. Before launching his business, he started his career as a project engineer in Detroit for three years. Then he returned to his hometown of Sioux Falls in the late 1990’s, and most recently worked as the director of business development for Adams Thermal Systems in Canton.

Bertsch and Tom Salestrom, who also has experience in business development, cofounded AMI in early 2014. At this point, Bertsch is the only full-time employee.

Mel Ustad got to know Bertsch when AMI competed and placed as a finalist in the 2014 Governor’s Giant Vision Awards. “Greg has technical knowledge, but he’s also got a business background. He brings a unique skillset for an entrepreneur,” says Ustad, director of commercialization for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“What he’s trying to do is not a trivial matter. It’s a very complex process,” Ustad says.

AMI was among 11 South Dakota companies that Ustad and three other business officials from the state pitched as presenters this past fall at a global business conference in California. The audience included representatives of large companies and investment firms.

AMI seemed to be the South Dakota business venture that attracted the greatest interest and following among audience members, says Pam Boehm, who also served on the presentation panel at the conference. She is the entrepreneurship and incubation manager at the SDTBC.

“Everyone was really all over the antimicrobial possibilities,” Boehm says. “There’s a ton of opportunity.”

Bertsch conducts research on attaching chlorine to base materials at the USD Graduate Education and Applied Research Center – GEAR Center, for short – in northwestern Sioux Falls. AMI has a licensing agreement with USD for the commercialization rights.

In addition to textile applications, AMI is exploring other prospective product uses in the health care, agricultural and food-processing industries.

To refine their business strategy, Bertsch and Salestrom recently completed SDTBC Accelerator program. The program included a three-day boot camp followed by four, one-day sessions held over a period of four months. Participants heard from experts in fields such as marketing, sales and finance to help improve their business plans and their products to market.

“It was helpful to get into a group and work with other entrepreneurs encountering some of the same issues we are,” Bertsch says.

The application period for the next round of Accelerator Training at the SDTBC is expected to open by Jan. 1, with training beginning in the spring of 2015.

AMI has recently set up a pilot scale production facility in a laboratory at  SDTBC which has also been a positive move for AMI, Bertsch says, “They’ve allowed us to reach out to some pretty influential people and they’ve been very accommodating in providing us what we need.”

To learn more about AMI, visit www.amibrilliant.com, or contact Greg Bertsch at (605) 373-9382 or email gbertsch@amibrilliant.comFor more information on the South Dakota Technology Business Center or its Accelerator program, contact Pam Boem at (605) 275-8008 or email pamb@sdtbc.com.