Surface-coating technology developed by Irish company Kastus is effective against the coronavirus that leads to Covid-19, a leading US testing laboratory has confirmed.
Founded in 2014 as a spin-out from what was then DIT (now the Technological University Dublin), Kastus has pioneered an antimicrobial treatment that can be used to coat glass and ceramics or added to plastics and paint.
The treatment, which can be used on everything from smartphones to ceramic floor tiles and touchscreen kiosks, had previously been proven to have a 99.99 per cent kill rate against harmful bacteria and fungi including antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and E.coli. Testing conducted by Nelson Laboratories in New York over the past month has now confirmed its effectiveness against the coronavirus that has led to the pandemic.
This validation is expected to lead to a huge surge in demand for Kastus’s technology from manufacturers.
"This gives our customers and commercial partners a real unique selling point in that they are bringing out products that can help save people's lives," said the company's chief executive John Browne. "It should also mean that businesses that are reopening following the lifting of restrictions will be better prepared to ensure public safety."
Research recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the Sars-CoV-2 virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.
“Our technology is totally unique. We’ve spent about €1 million on our intellectual property portfolio and have been relatively aggressive with our IP strategy, always with a view that the day would come eventually and the penny would drop in regard to how important the solution is,” said Mr Browne.
He added that the company had not tweaked its ground-breaking treatment before testing.
“We’ve been working on getting the testing done for a couple of months and it is great to get the validation through. We just got the results through last night so it was something nice to wake up to on a wet Wednesday morning,” he said.
The surface protection coating is applied during the manufacturing process to form a permanent protection against superbugs. Companies currently using the solution in their products include Zagg, a leading US producer of screen protectors for tablets and smartphones. Kastus also has a deal with Oman-based Al Maha Ceramics for its solution to be used on tiles sold in more than 15 countries across Asia and Africa.
Mr Browne said given the coronavirus outbreak, people are reluctant to use public touchscreens currently. While the coating is primarily for use in new products, companies can add screen protectors retrospectively that have had the coating applied to provide protection. This means it could soon be used widely in products such as touchscreen kiosks in restaurants, shopping centres and airports.
Kastus, which won the Irish Times Innovation award in 2017, has previously raised about €4.5 million in funding from backers that include Atlantic Bridge. The company is currently in the process of targeting a €10 million Series B funding round. It also intends to more than double staff numbers to 50 people.
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly three million people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 globally and over 204,000 have died. In Ireland, there have been nearly 20,000 confirmed cases and 1,159 deaths.