Oxima, a Skolkovo resident company, has created a mask that is, for now, unique in the world. The company’s founder and CEO Denis Medvedev is a bearded man, meaning that regular masks for him are all but useless. “I made this mask for myself,” he said during an interview with Sk.ru. It goes without saying that Oxima’s mask came into being with the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the complications it brought with it. The new mask aims to solve the problems associated with the masks that we see every day.

One of the earliest examples of protective mask use against microorganisms was in 1897 when the Polish surgeon Johann Mikulicz, the head of the surgery department of the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw), donned one; this was following work with a local bacteriologist, Carl Flügge, who showed through his experiments that respiratory droplets carry bacteria. Now, as we face a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, mask use is more important than ever before along with the development of new and more effective variants. In studying the virus, it’s become clear that the eyes, along with the mouth and nostrils, need to be protected. The new Oxima mask does just this.

According to the Skolkovo Intellectual Property Center, there are no existing analogues of Oxima’s product; that was until the company itself submitted a patent application.

Oxima creates a completely new mask for work and life in a pandemic. Photo: Oxima. 

Healthcare authorities combatting the spread of Covid-19 face numerous obstacles, and among these are complacency or outright refusal from individuals to wear masks. The most commonly cited reasons for not wearing facial protection is discomfort and the effect it can have on one’s skin.

Even though we know that masks are effective if everybody were to use them in combination with the appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures, what do we do when many people refuse to wear them? One particular group – the deaf and hard of hearing – faces issues with increased mask use due to the fact that lipreading is an integral part of daily life for many deaf people. In Moldova, they came up with what appeared to be a solution to the problem: a special see-through mask designed for the deaf and hard of hearing. However, a crucial drawback of these masks is that they steam up almost instantaneously.

“We set ourselves the tasks of how to protect both the eyes and the respiratory system, but also to create a mask that is comfortable for the skin while wearing it for long periods,” said Denis Medvedev.Skolkovo’s Vice-President of Science and Education Nikolay Suetin pointed to the key physical features of masks, gas masks, and respirators. There are three ventilators on the top part of the Oxima mask that pump air through an FFP3 UV-light filter. This lowers the pressure under the mask, making it fit even more snugly than before. If the mask fits snugly over one’s face, the moment the wearer breathes in it creates a vacuum area and, as a result, the pressure outside is greater than on the inside, and the air entering passes through the filtration components. This is a critical feature, because if there are any openings, then unfiltered air can enter, which defeats the whole purpose. One of the major flaws of generic masks is that they do not protect the eyes where, it has been discovered, the virus can enter as effectively or more so than through the respiratory system. Transparent eye-guards, such as visors, have been shown to be only 2% effective, meaning that any eye cover should be airtight.

The transparent part of the Oxima mask covers the entire face, protecting both the respiratory system and the eyes from the virus. This way users can see each other’s faces in full, along with all the expressions that are an integral part of normal conversation that were taken for granted prior to the pandemic.

Nikolay Suetin: Oxima masks have great prospects in the post-Covid world. Photo: Oxima 

Who is the CEO of Oxima? To begin with, this isn’t his first startup. Mr. Medvedev is the co-founder and CPO of the Samocat Sharing project, a city-wide scooter rental service not unlike city bike rentals that are widespread both in Moscow and other European cities. The only thing that can really be compared between these two projects is that they offer a sense of independence. A person on an electric scooter does not rely on public transport, while a person wearing an Oxima mask does not need extra protection from Covid-19 as long as, of course, they adhere to hygiene and social distancing measures.

The company’s main task right now is to get investment so that it can complete its development faster and get it certified. In order to enter foreign markets, Oxima is planning a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.Denis Medvedev has three third-level degrees. The first two (telecommunications and economics) he received in St. Petersburg at the Bonch-Bruevich University of Telecommunications. Following that, he completed a master’s at the Higher School of Economics but was expelled after writing his diploma. “They expelled me because I didn’t attend my defense,” Denis laughs. “I had a project and simply forgot about the defense. That was in spite of the fact that I got all A’s and had a diploma with honors. I already understood then that having another degree wouldn’t be of any benefit to me. I had already gained the knowledge.” He continues to study and recently received a diploma with honors in product management from the Skolkovo company “Netology.”

Denis Medvedev: "I made this mask for myself." Photo: Oxima 

“Until now there hasn’t been a device in this sector that could be a gadget. We are talking about a complicated electronic device that gives real protection in comparison to a regular material mask. Also, if you were to compare the price of disposable masks over the course of, say, a thousand hours, taking into account regular mask changing, then they would cost about eight thousand rubles. That is pretty much the same amount as the cost of our gadget.Nikolay Suetin: Oxima masks have great prospects in the post-Covid world. Photo: Oxima “To me it seems that our project is innovative and at the same time understandable to regular people, so that we attract attention not just from geeks but from regular individuals that want to buy masks for their grandmothers,” Denis Medvedev explains. “Who are the top-priority clients for the Oxima project? Small businesses most of all. Our main focus is B2B; that is to say, retail, hairdressers, restaurant staff, dry cleaners, banks, transport, metro workers, airlines, taxi drivers; all the people who come into direct contact with customers. Aside from small businesses, there are large companies that need to protect their employees.

“Our device is reusable. Most of all, it solves the problems of discomfort associated with regular masks. It’s not hot, you can wear glasses with it, it doesn’t steam up and doesn’t interfere with communication. It’s pointless comparing it to a regular mask. If a person uses a single-use mask for five minutes a day in order to go into a shop, they won’t buy on Oxima mask. The mask will be purchased by those who need it: people who are exposed to risk for hours every day, or those who are required to wear it at work. Sooner or later, the majority of us will be air passengers again, and that is yet another scenario for using such a mask.”

Nikolay Suetin believes that the Oxima mask has great prospects. The coronavirus pandemic will come to an end at some stage, but other viruses and allergens will always be around. “In all cases, the size of these particles is less than a hundred nanometers, but such particles have long been filtered out in microelectronics; hospital surgical facilities are also filtered of such particles due the fact that excess pressure in the operation room is created by air that has passed through filters,” he said.

According to the CEO of Oxima, the company plans in the near future to gain medical certification for the product and to conduct tests with healthcare organizations.