Venture-backed Disposal Sciences, in Englewood, Colo., uses a few pounds of prevention to attack the problem of accidental needle-sticks in hospitals. The company's dry-heat system aims to decontaminate and destroy syringes and other types of medical waste at their source. Installed at hospital nursing stations, the suitcase-size machines reduce the risks (and liabilities) of needle-sticks among support staff and waste handlers, by sterilizing and melting syringes into pucks of crude plastic. Hospitals' concerns about high disposal costs and health-worker safety conspire to create a $2-billion market for safer, cheaper alternatives, reports CEO David Wood. While small, rural hospitals have been first to adopt the $6,000 to $8,000 systems, nearly half the company's first-year sales of $1 million have come from abroad.

-- Anne Murphy