Published July 31, 2017
When Luanne DiBernardo launched her company that made vests to help keep multiple sclerosis patients cool, she was reacting to the difficulty her brother faced with his MS.
A clothes designer himself, Van DiBernardo helped fashion a vest that looked good and, more importantly, cooled those who wore it. As with most new companies, that start eight years ago launched an evolutionary process that now is yielding a range of products for different markets.
The tiny company called Coolture is now aiming squarely at the aging baby boomer market, the giant demographic of wounded weekend warriors with sore knees and shoulders. While still serving the medical market, the company sees potential growth in orthopedic therapeutic cooling in this aging population.
A knee sleeve that holds small cooling packets, and a similar shoulder sleeve are in the works to go along with the cooling vest, headband and glove the company now makes.
“People who have had knee surgery are required to ice their knees throughout the day. This will allow them to cool on the go,” says Luanne DiBernardo, CEO of Coolture.
The therapeutic value of icing an injury has been proven, including the extreme case in 2007 of Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who suffered a broken neck and was immediately cooled in a type of hypothermia therapy. After successful surgery, he was able to walk again.
For weekend warriors, simply icing sore knees or sprains can reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Coolture recently received a strong endorsement from a Coast Guard commander in Savannah, Georgia, who had his station test 11 different cooling vests. “Your Coolture cooling vest was the hands-down top pick at our unit, the Marine Safety Unit, as well as the Cutter Tarpon,” Lt. Cmdr. James Fenno told DiBernardo in a letter. Men in the Coast Guard hangars sometimes work in 140-degree heat, he said.
The cooling vest was tested at UB in experiments funded by the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) and overseen by Nadine Fisher, director of the Rehabilitation Physiology Laboratory in UB’s Department of Rehabilitation Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Fenno ordered 40 of the $249 cooling vests after the test, and recommended them to other Coast Guard stations in hot climates.
“The crews were very complimentary about the elastic fabric and how it held the cooling packs to their torso. We also liked the almost-articulated way in which your cooling packs molded against the body,” he said.
As a newly registered woman-owned business, DiBernardo has contracted with a medical device distributor to expand Coolture’s reach into government contracts.
She also sets up displays at regional athletic events to sell the cooling headbands. She sold more than 200 of the $20 bands at a recent lacrosse tournament.
“People just love them,” she says. “Nike validated cooling at the Beijing Olympics, citing improved performance when core body temperature was lowered. Even watching a game in hot weather is more comfortable.”