Time to read: 5 minutes
Thirteen years ago, a spark of an idea took hold of my imagination. The idea came from reading some NASA research that documented the use of infrared (IR) light to make plants grow quicker in space. The idea itself was that if IR could make plant cells grow and replicate quicker, maybe it could help animal cells, and therefore people too. Wounds could be healed faster; athletes could recover quicker from injuries; and you could treat or manage a range of chronic illnesses to boot.
Following 6 years of academic research, on this day in 2013, I took the plunge to take that spark of an idea, and start putting it to good use. Seven years ago, KYMIRA was born. Many of you reading this will know of us, but the team and I thought it would be fun to share with you seven facts that you may not know.
Where does the name KYMIRA come from?
The name KYMIRA came to me one evening when I was first thinking of turning down my PhD offer and starting a company. I was brushing my teeth, and looking at my Gillette fusion razor. Fusion was a great way to describe the different technologies that I one day wanted to use together, but it was taken. I was thinking of other words that meant the same thing and was struck with the memory of a fish in the dissection labs at the University of Reading. It was a species of fish called a rabbit fish, and the label on its jar read "this is an example of a genetic chimera". A chimera describes an organism that has a mixture of genetically different tissues, so I figured that as a biochemist, that was an apt way to talk about my different technologies. I changed the "CHI" to "KY" as it looked sleeker, and the "ER" to "IR" in homage to infrared, the first of the technologies, and the reason I was starting a company in the first place… the name KYMIRA had arrived!
Most people know about sport, but KYMIRA originated for medical applications
Most people know KYMIRA for our sports brand, but the company was actually founded to develop products to help people with medical conditions. Today, the products that we develop with our KYnergy infrared technology are helping athletes, and those with medical conditions alike, all across the globe.
Ethical and sustainable supply chain
Ethical and sustainable sourcing practices have always been at the heart of KYMIRA's supply chain. I am really proud of the fact that ~98% of our range is made right here in the UK, and only one product (our gloves) is made outside of the EU. Since our Autumn/Winter 2019 releases, all KYMIRA's products are made with recycled polyesters, rather than virgin polyester. This has not always been the case because, in our early days, we simply could not afford it. However, what we have always insisted on, is a long product lifetime to make up for this. The average lifetime of sportswear is 50 washes, expecting 1 wash a week. However, for every 9 months a garment is used, you offset the carbon emissions of that garment by 30%. As such, we have a minimum expectation for every product that we make, to last for 2 years. Plenty last longer though, and we often have customers 5 years on from their purchase telling us how their products are still going strong!
Powering world records & the top international teams
We love to take part in exciting events as much as any other company. However, when we are selecting ones to sponsor, our criteria will always include the question "How can we/our technology help?". This has led to some incredible partnerships, such as two transatlantic rowing crews, and a long-standing relationship with some of the toughest explorers I know, Expedition 5. Expedition 5 is one island short of becoming the first explorers on Earth to cross the world's 5 largest islands under human (or KYMIRA) power alone. We are also very proud to count many international sports teams as clients and have had athletes wearing KYMIRA at the Olympics, Football and Rugby World Cups, along with many World Championships. Sadly, due to sponsorship restrictions, we are not able to list them all, but leave some comments below with your best guesses!
We have also been involved in other sectors over the years
Our two core areas of work are sports and medical, as I spoke about at the start of this article, and thanks to the versatility of our technologies we have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects in completely different industries. Some of my favourite ones have been a consulting project that we did to assess the feasibility of using smart garments in nuclear decommissioning, and over the last couple of years, we have completed projects for the UK and European Space Agencies. In fact, with relation to the space industry, our special projects lead (Toju Raine) has just been selected to attend the International Space University with a scholarship from the UK Space Agency. We are very proud of him!
We are known for our IR, but we have been working on so much more
As early as 2014, I was speaking publicly about the possibilities of smart garments in the future, where computing and textiles were seamlessly integrated into one device. In all honesty, at the time, I thought that if we made it to 10 years old, we might start to work on some new technologies like that, but would be focusing on the IR for the next 9 years. However, we started working on these 7 years early, in 2016. We are now on the cusp of releasing our first products for researchers to access, which include shirts with ECG's built into them, as well as other garments that feature gate/movement analysis and EMG sensing capabilities for muscle activation. The ECG garment has already been put to good use in pilot studies in partnership with the Imperial NHS trust. Amazingly, during testing, we detected a previously unknown heart condition in one of our engineers which he is now receiving treatment for.
Perhaps the product that I am most excited about though, is a wrap and shirt that we are developing, which can track and categorise types of movement of an unborn child. This device alone has the potential to reduce stillbirths by up to 58%!
Today, we find ourselves at the forefront of smart textiles research, and our technologies are supporting other companies with their developments, as well as our own.
We pride ourselves on scientific integrity, which is only possible with our partners
One of our core values at KYMIRA has always been the scientific integrity of our products and technologies, and the claims that we make about them. This would not have been possible on the shoe-string budget we have had, without partners and collaborators across the world who have supported us on our mission along the way. I won't name everyone, as the list is extensive, but a huge thank you goes to all of the Universities, Tech Partners, Hospitals and more, that have helped us to bring scientific study and validation to all of our products.