University partners with industry to develop new anti-viral technologies to limit spread of COVID-19

Scientists at the University of Liverpool, as part of a local consortium, have been awarded three Innovate UK grants to develop new anti-viral technology that will limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) from touching contaminated surfaces in areas such as hospitals, train stations or restaurants and shops.

The consortium involves researchers from the University’s Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces alongside local industry and partners. It will use Innovate UK funding to create anti-viral surfaces that will mitigate the potential of the virus to spread from surfaces that people come into regular contact with.

Covid-19 has proven to be particularly resilient and can remain active on plastic and glass surfaces for several days which poses a significant barrier to resuming public services, reopening hospitality and welcoming workers back to their offices.

The projects will target three main applications: anti-viral coatings to create reusable face visors and goggles with high optical performance; a transparent anti-viral touch screen coating for ticket machines used widely in public transport and healthcare; and a point-of-sale cleansing system for the retail sector to rapidly disinfect card readers after every use.

The University’s Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces has a strong track record in surface science research and innovation and will use its extensive industrial partnerships and supply chains to develop these new smart anti-viral and anti-bacterial surface technologies.

The first two projects are in partnership with Gencoa Ltd and its supply chain, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and will involve end-users Northern Rail and Alder Hey while the final project is being developed with Biaccon Ltd who are supported by several collaborators including BIRA.

Professor Rasmita Raval, Director of the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces, said: “Anti-viral surfaces are at the frontline of COVID control and new surface-based technologies have the potential to break and contain chains of transmission. This project creates an excellent opportunity to translate our state-of-the-art surface science research into the region’s innovation pipeline and help our regional SME companies to create new products that will enable key sectors in our city and the UK to open up again”.

Dr Dermot Monaghan, MD of Gencoa, said: “For 5 years Gencoa have been developing very thin transparent coatings that can protect touch screen users from microbial contagion. The success of our grant applications with the University of Liverpool and other partners is the springboard we needed to provide the scientific information of how these surfaces quickly kill viruses and bacteria. We aim to apply this technology around the world in consumer and healthcare settings to help fight infections that are a result of cross-contamination from hand contact with surfaces”.

Peter Rutter, MD of Biaccon confirmed “It’s essential to find multiple solutions which break the chain of COVID transmission and help everyone return to their work and leisure environments safely. The success of our Innovate UK grant working with the University of Liverpool, University of Glasgow and other partners and collaborators will help us create a solution which can contribute to a safe environment, especially within retail and hospitality, limiting the opportunity for COVID and potentially future viruses to be transmitted when operating card payment machines.”

Innovate UK Smart Grants are awarded to projects that deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy.

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