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Wilmington-based Desikant Technologies creates ‘smart garments’ to help surgeons keep their cool

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In a classic scene from a TV medical drama, a surgeon stands over the operating table while a nurse dabs the doctor’s damp brow. By the time the life-or-death procedure ends, the surgeon is soaked with sweat.

For many physicians, such a depiction is all too real. For hours at a time, they wear scrubs, sterile gowns, masks, gloves, hats and other gear that trap warm, humid air against their bodies. Overheating can affect concentration and cause dehydration.

Wilmington-based Desikant Technologies has an innovative solution. The startup creates thermoregulation “smart garments,” including a cooling vest that prevents heat exhaustion. The company is the dream of Kwaku Temeng, a former DuPont employee turned entrepreneur.

“Since my days at DuPont, there was something in me that wanted to start a company to solve an important problem,” he says. “I knew that one day I would start a venture.”

Temeng came to the United States from Ghana to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before earning a doctorate in chemical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His career with DuPont brought him to Delaware in the early 1990s.

Gov. John Carney awarding Kwaku Temeng, founder of Desikant Technologies, with a Certificate of Achievement. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DELAWARE PROSPERITY PARTNERSHIP

Temeng remained a Delaware resident after becoming director of open innovation for Baltimore-based Under Armour. He continued living in Delaware after joining Dropel Fabrics in New York, which develops and manufactures performance garments using sustainable natural fabrics. Commuting by train gave Temeng time to think about how heat stress affects athletes.

“Stamina drops quite a bit, and the ability to focus on the activity suffers,” he explains. “When the body can’t cool itself down, there’s the risk of dehydration.”

In 2020, Temeng founded Desikant Technologies. He hired Alisa Esposito, an Under Armour colleague who built high-performance garments for Olympic athletes and electronic-integrated apparel, as vice president of technical design and Joel Melnick, an electrical engineer who had built flight-control systems for Boeing and designed devices for surgeons, as chief technical officer.

Their first product is a vest for the surgical market, worn over scrubs and under the gown. Sensors in the vest detect when the body overheats. Sophisticated electronics in the apparel actively replace the warm, humid air around the body with cool, dry air. The U.S. Army bought the initial prototype, and the second will be tested in operating rooms. The team will then tackle applications for outdoor activities, such as hiking and running.

Supporting the company’s work will be a $75,000 Delaware Innovation Award from the Startup302 competition organized by Delaware Prosperity Partnership and an Encouraging Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) Grant from the Delaware Division of Small Business. With these, Desikant is looking for office space – in Delaware, of course.

“Delaware’s position along the East Coast is ideal,” he says. “It’s near New York’s fashion industry and Baltimore, where there is a community experienced in building high-performance products.”

Even closer are “a bunch of potential partners that make electronics” – including DuPont.

Are you a startup seeking support for your next big idea? Maybe Delaware Prosperity Partnership can help. Contact Noah Olson at nolson@choosedelaware.com.

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