Here, we learn about a British company launching a fast-acting antimicrobial coating that destroys coronavirus
About Smart Separations
Founded in 2013, Dr Hugo Macedo started Smart Separations on his kitchen table at Battersea, London. It grew into his garage and has since expanded into world-class facilities at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) and Surrey Research Park, Guildford.
With 25+ employees in the UK, Portugal, Mexico and Spain, we are a global team of thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs all driven to improve quality of life through innovation. We are home to researchers, engineers and industry veterans ranging from the fields of tissue engineering and manufacturing to biotech and material sciences. Smart Separations has created a new generation of antiviral coatings and ceramic membranes. ViraTeq™ technology destroys SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and a customisable ceramic membrane technology that challenges what’s possible with microfiltration.
By working with people from a range of disciplines, we are pursuing an ambitious vision for our two major technology platforms – coatings and ceramic filters. From manufacturing to air purification and from transportation to healthcare, Smart Separations works with partners where antiviral coatings or microfiltration is needed. A true Anglo-Portuguese success story.
British company Smart Separations has recently launched the world’s most advanced antiviral coating under its ViraTeq brand. Smart Separations were winners of the EIC Attack COVID-19 Award in March 2020 and the company has received funding from both the UK Government through Innovate UK and the European Commission through the EIC Council.
The ViraTeq coating has the potential to eliminate the transmission of disease via contaminated surfaces. It eliminates viruses so fast that it is also used in air purifiers and masks.
ViraTeq: Responding to COVID-19
The CEO of Smart Separations is Dr Hugo Macedo, previously a researcher at Imperial College London, where he led breakthroughs in creating synthetically-made blood. Now leading breakthroughs in antimicrobial coatings, he recognises the significance of ViraTeq and the long-lasting and essential impact it will have in response to COVID-19 but also in helping prevent a future pandemic. “We’ve worked so hard on ViraTeq and we’re so proud of its qualities’, says Dr Macedo, “because it fills a huge gap in the market. It’s a coating that has fast antiviral action and works on all manner of surfaces and products that people touch.”
The antiviral properties of ViraTeq stem from its use of a special class of compounds called ‘quats’ that have the property of bursting the outer envelopes of bacteria and viruses. Quats pop viruses like a balloon on a cactus and are, in fact, widely used in household products. Where ViraTeq differs — and makes a massive step forward — is that it attaches the quat to nanoparticles. This has a unique and significant effect on the speed and efficiency of the substance at eliminating the bugs that spread disease. “Other people have quats, but we have a quat on steroids,” says Dr Macedo.
“We knew we had a ground-breaking coating, but it was always a challenge to get it to stick to each surface,” said Dr Macedo. Dr Macedo’s team — based in a technology centre attached to the University of Surrey — has spent the period since lockdown working on how to attach ViraTeq to the types of surfaces that customers need to be protected: various types of plastic, metals, ceramics, glass, fabrics, cleaning products. Progress has been fast and having successfully managed to develop formulas, ViraTeq could stick to many different substrates and business partners have opened up in multiple sectors.
Meanwhile, Smart Separations has commissioned tests from independent certified labs with bacteria, viruses and SARS-CoV-2. “When the results came back, we were excited,” said Dr Macedo’s description of the moment the report numbers arrived.
Customers using ViraTeq
Away from the science, Smart Separations is busy signing deals with customers to use ViraTeq. The substance is so versatile that it was difficult to know which applications to tackle first. “We decided to concentrate on trusted brands, and large corporate clients whose reach would impact everyday people,” said, Caleb Storkey, Head of Commercials.
The company has chosen to attack the value chain at three points. First, it is looking at bulk materials like glass, fabric, wood, metals and plastic sheets. These are coated and then converted subsequently into end products. ViraTeq is tough and durable, so it can survive these downstream manufacturing operations. Second, it is partnering with suppliers of end products like PPE, air filters, and uniforms to protect end products directly. Third, Smart Separations is developing its own products that depend on the unique properties of ViraTeq such as its Gino air sanitiser, antiviral sticker range and masks.
How ViraTeq transforms the landscape
Gino exemplifies how ViraTeq transforms the landscape. Previously, the only way to rid the air of microbes was to filter them out or to use electromagnetic radiation. Filters have a limited life and are expensive to replace. Radiation uses energy and can be harmful. But Dr Macedo and his team found a way to use ViraTeq coatings on widely available ceramic honeycomb filters. “It’s because ViraTeq kills in an instant that we’ve been able to develop an air sanitiser that is smaller, uses less energy and yet is just as effective as the floor standing units that dominate the market,” says Dr Macedo.
Despite being versatile, the applicability of ViraTeq for each new application needs to be tested carefully. So Smart Separations typically undertakes a feasibility study as the first step in working with a client. The feasibility work looks at the compatibility with the substrate, the coating process and the antimicrobial performance achievable. Later stages explore the robustness of the coating in the client’s specific applications, including longevity and the cleaning process.
Naturally, at the start, Smart Separations was having to develop methods from scratch for each new client. Now, with successful cases under their belt, the company has a growing body of off-the-shelf methods to call on.
Though the pandemic has led to a rush for feasibility studies, Dr Macedo is clear that his company is looking far beyond the pandemic. “We always knew and wanted to accelerate the pandemic coming to an end. Our technologies have been designed to remain relevant to the post-COVID world. So we have never confined our thinking to coronavirus. Indeed, the first test we ever did was with fungi, and we are now emphasising that ViraTeq is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial.”
‘What Smart Separations have launched is simply remarkable. The performance of ViraTeq, their antimicrobial coating and all the verticals and industries they will positively impact is outstanding. Strategically, scientifically and with a commitment on innovations that improve quality of life, this is a company to watch for in 2021,’ said Professor Alan Barrell, Chairman of Cambridge Worldwide Associates and formerly Entrepreneur in Residence, Entrepreneur Centre, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.”
Indeed, there’s a shift occurring in the antimicrobial space. Looking back to market reports published before the pandemic, the main markets then were in food packaging and niche medical areas. Going forward, as they have seen, it is likely that most shared touch-surfaces will include an antimicrobial treatment. From supermarket trolleys to light switches to escalator handrails, end-users will demand the reassurance that their products are treated to avoid bugs growing on the surfaces that people touch.
The key idea here is ‘reassurance’. The scientific performance of a coating is part of giving people reassurance, but it’s not the only factor, argues Dr Hugo Macedo. “People need a trusted brand that is independently tested, recognisable and scalable. This is the badge of reassurance that Smart Separations offers.”
Where Smart Separations is heading
CEO Dr Hugo Macedo explains where he wants Smart Separations to be heading. “Our vision is to be the world’s leading antimicrobial coating. That’s why we’re partnering with the world’s biggest and most trusted brands. We know we can do it because we know that ViraTeq is a uniquely powerful solution that spans multiple substrates. Our rallying cry. Get COVID Secure. Get ViraTeq.”
*Please note: This is a commercial profile
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