In the fight against the novel coronavirus, a Raleigh-based startup’s technology is destroying pathogens on surfaces.
PhotoCide Protection, which will present at CED’s virtual Venture Connect summit (March 23-25), emerged from the work of three professors at NC State. Chemistry professor Reza Ghiladi originally had focused his research on anti-microbial technologies using light to initiate surface disinfection. He wanted to see if one could extend that technology to work against viruses.
Through a scientific mixer on campus, he met biological sciences professor Frank Scholle, and a collaboration that would become PhotoCide Protection was born in 2018. Robert Sheehan, with a background in sales and marketing, came on board as the director of business and commercialization while serving as an executive-in-residence at NC State.
PhotoCide relies on its technology employing molecules called photosensitizers, which absorb light and transfer that energy to molecular oxygen. This damages the bacteria and viruses in a similar way to bleach but without hurting healthy human tissue, so these microbes are unable to infect new hosts. PhotoCide Protection has proven effective against one of the most feared viruses of today: the novel coronavirus. It could also prove effective against norovirus, which has been the cause of multiple past outbreaks on cruise ships and elsewhere.
PhotoCide Protection has received hundreds of thousands in funding, including from a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant, in its goal to protect health and safety. Covid-19 has shown an increased need for products like this, as we move into the future with more awareness on how easily pandemics can strike.
“As we probably will face additional pandemics in the future” Sheehan said, “we will as a nation, as a world, be more ready with products like ours.”
Targeting healthcare facilities
The applications of PhotoCide Protection are nearly limitless upon surfaces, Sheehan said. But so far, the startup has targeted the market in hospitals and healthcare facilities, where hospital-acquired infections kill patients and create hefty financial damages for the hospitals.
Says Ghiladi, “You go into a hospital for one ailment, and while you’re receiving treatment within that hospital, you come down with a hospital-acquired infection that ultimately ends up killing you. That’s a tremendous loss of life.”
The loss can be burdensome on the hospital and healthcare system as well, Ghiladi said. PhotoCide Protection has the ability to be sprayed on personal protective equipment, or even on bandages on the battlefield to prevent infection in soldiers.
Looking ahead, launching PhotoCide Protection during a pandemic may have had some advantages as people recognize its power in combating future pandemics.
Says Scholle, “This Covid-19 pandemic obviously has raised the awareness everywhere that this is possible and it’s a very real thing that can affect all of our lives.”
Originally hoping the technology could remain active on surfaces for a week, PhotoCide has recently discovered their product lasts for as long as a month. But to get necessary certifications from the EPA and/or FDA, PhotoCide Protection will need more funding.
“I think that will be a quantum leap forward in our ability to push a product out into the commercial space,” Ghiladi said. “I think obtaining venture capital funding will also facilitate that, and I’m really looking forward to having our first product on a shelf.”