And for his next trick: DeMeo has become a bra maker and salesman.
"People don't appreciate how tremendously complicated a well-made bra is," DeMeo said last week, holding a black underwire model embellished with a pink ribbon in the center. "It's a three-dimensional garment with something like 25 sew steps."
Several hundred units of Demron bras are stacked and ready for shipment at DeMeo's Radiation Shield Technologies factory in
"The customers we have in mind are women who are in work environments like hospitals and airports, where they may be exposed to more consistent radiation, even in lower levels," DeMeo said.
The bras are neither proven nor marketed to prevent breast cancer. Rather, DeMeo said they are "one of many tools in the toolbox" to help reduce risk.
"We know that Demron reduces radiation, and we know that radiation can cause cancer. So while we don't know that the bra will prevent cancer, we do know it is another step toward prevention," he said. "And when you think about it, that's what our company is all about: awareness, preparedness, protection."
Radiation Shield Technologies, which DeMeo founded in 2002, brought in just under
DeMeo's Demron gear is the first of its kind to offer full, government-tested protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats (abbreviated in the industry as CBRN) in a lightweight, breathable material. RST's contracts extend from police and fire departments in
"At the time, it was just a knee-jerk reaction: We need to get suits over there right away," DeMeo said. "I later realized that the Asian market is extremely difficult for Western companies to break into. But they viewed our donation as a gift, and that small gesture really opened the door for us to build relationships throughout the region."
DeMeo said RST's 2011 donation has led to "thousands" of sales throughout
"They were very polite, but they asked if next time we could send white suits," DeMeo said. "Now we have white as an option."
With a boost from the new Demron bras, RST's first direct-to-consumer product, DeMeo projects the company will reach
This also will be the first fully operational year for RST's Miami Garden's facility, a 24,000-square-foot warehouse the company bought for
RST is headquartered in
It was through his clinical practice that DeMeo recognized the need for an alternative to the heavy lead vests that are the industry standard for patients and medical workers near X-ray machines. He began to notice radiation burns on his face, which he attributed to a steady stream of X-ray exposure, and he set off to create a mask filled with radiation-blocking powders.
"It left a chalky residue and looked like hell, but it worked," DeMeo said of a prototype. "One day in the operating room, I put the mask on the X-ray table as an experiment, and it didn't show up in the films. It was X-ray-proof.
"Another doctor in the OR asked if I had a patent for it, and I said to him, 'What's a patent?' "
DeMeo soon found out. With the help of
The demand for Demron-lined and competing protective gear ebbs and flows with major events like 9/11, the subsequent anthrax attacks and the Fukushima disaster, said
"There certainly seems to be an increased awareness as such incidents transpire," Jorgensen said. "The old concept of bad guys on one side, good guys on another is a thing of the past. We now recognize that there are threats all around us, and we are part of a growing industry that works to minimize and protect against those threats."
"Equipment like Dr. DeMeo's and from other companies have brought CBRN capabilities from the military battlefield to the hands of civilian first-responders," Rudner said. "As a trainer, keeping my people safe is my first priority, and that what his products are designed to do."
The Demron-making process carried out in
RST's top-of-the-line body suits weigh less than 15 pounds, about the same as the lead vests draped over patients during X-rays.
Before moving its factory to
"I would rather employ people in
DeMeo never set out to be an inventor or entrepreneur. So, after his Demron patent began to get the attention of investment bankers and venture-capital types, DeMeo sought the advice of a career counselor at UM. That led to an MBA from the university's
"I like to say I'm full time at both," he said. "I'm like that [attention-deficit disorder] guy who never took Ritalin. I'm never settled with one course at a time. I have to keep finding new things to do."
DeMeo lives in
He said he is unsure what RST's next product might be, although he has been getting interest from firefighters and others in a
Presently, DeMeo said he is focused on selling the Demron Bra. He said it reminds him of why he got into the radiation-blocking garment business: to protect his colleagues in the medical field.
"I keep thinking of OR nurses whose only options are to wear hot, heavy lead vests or have no protection at all from harmful radiation," DeMeo said. "No OR nurse signs up for the job to be exposed to a weapon of mass destruction every day."
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