After Kris Kobach lost his U.S. Senate primary against U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Dan Drake reached out to Kobach to offer him, essentially, a job.
The two, they said, had bumped into each other at a deer hunting camp one night and had kept in touch since then.
On Wednesday, both Drake and Kobach were in Topeka pitching their coronavirus-killing sanitation company, Sarus Systems, to be used for the state Capitol. They’ve also been pitching their services to other governmental entities, such as the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office.
"Kris has helped me learn a little bit of the ropes with government," said Drake, CEO of Sarus Systems. "I’m not a very political animal."
Kobach, former Kansas secretary of state, has been consulting for the company since August, Drake said, and his governmental connections and experience have been useful.
Kobach told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he was excited when he heard about how ozone, typically used to mask scents for hunting purposes, could be used to kill the novel coronavirus. Kobach is an avid hunter himself, he said.
"I’m very pleased it’s a Kansas company leading this new cutting-edge technology, and I love to see not only Kansas facilities protected by this Kansas technology, but eventually the rest of this country, too," Kobach said.
Sarus Systems advertises two commercial products, both of which Drake brought along to present to state lawmakers.
One is a commercial sanitizing cabinet, with a 90-minute run time, in which things like masks or equipment placed into it would be rid of COVID-19. Another is a large-room sanitizer that can clean an up to 1,250-square-foot room in 90 minutes. A unit costs $15,000.
At the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, for example, Drake said the reaction to the products was very favorable. Part of that is there are no labor costs involved; for the most part, their products involve simply pressing a button.
"There was no additional labor, and it was very effective. They had an issue or two in their jails, and they came in and use this specialized spraying company and it was $4,000 or $5,000," said Drake, "whereas they could have purchased one of our units for ($15,000) and been able to run it every night."
Sarus tested the products in June with the actual coronavirus, and according to Drake, the closet disinfects up to 99.97% and the room sanitizer up to 99.8%.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, ozone applied to indoor air, at safe levels, don’t do much. But Sarus’ room sanitizer requires one to leave the room during cleaning.
However, even high concentrations of ozone may have "no effect on biological contaminants embedded in porous materials such as duct lining or ceiling tiles," per the EPA.
Now, the company is currently in production stage while also reaching out to potential customers, hoping that for some entities, federal COVID-19 relief funding could be used to purchase the products.
Drake has been in the ozone industry for seven years, he said, initially using the product to kill bacteria on turf fields and for other purposes. But with the pandemic, he said, there was an opportunity to help out.
"A lot of state and local governments are receiving these pots of money, and they’re not sure what to do with it," Kobach told legislators, referring to the CARES Act money. "This product they developed in Wichita is right on point."
This story was updated to include information from the EPA.