COVID-19 Response: Improved Antiviral Surfaces and Smart Disinfectants

AST is working on how we can contribute to the resolution of the COVID-19 crisis through the creation of functional materials. From our expertise in marine biofilm repellency, we understand that viral mitigation is complex and requires a biocidal approach to ensure efficacy. We believe we can create an improved antiviral surface that interacts with disinfectant solutions to improve biocidal activity – effectively reducing COVID-19 staying on commonly touched surfaces such as door handles and handrails.

AST has already seen inbound interest in possible solutions from mass transportation businesses.

Improved Antiviral Surfaces

One of AST’s core competencies is developing coatings with specific heterogeneous surface chemistries. To create an improved antiviral surface, we will use surface chemistries that loosely bind to existing antiviral disinfectant solutions. By engineering the surface in this way, we can absorb some of the biocidal actives and extend the duration of contact between the virus on the surface and actives within the solution. It is also possible that some of these actives would remain trapped in the coating for some time after application of the disinfecting solution thus conferring longer term activity. Recent studies have indicated that COVID-19 may stay on surfaces for up to three days (or longer)1 and contact with a disinfectant solution needs to be 30 seconds to 10 minutes to be effective.2 As a consequence, it is important to bind COVID-19 to disinfectants for much longer than the average “wipe” to create an antiviral surface. We believe our surface chemistries can do that.

This concept has already been tested in early stage with respect to a system for improving the function of aviation de-icing coatings potentially for the US Air Force and other customers. Re-engineering of the coating system for antiviral efficacy would clearly have to be done, but we intend to begin benchmarking and development with commercially available antiviral sprays.

Smart Disinfectant

In order to create AST’s biofouling repellent marine coating, AST had to develop multifunctional oils with tunable interaction to moisture. These oils may have an interesting property when integrated into cleaning solutions. Since these oils can interact with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic segments of proteins, we would expect an improved wetting interaction between these oils and a virus. By integrating these oils into a disinfectant solution, we would expect a better delivery of antiviral agents to individual viruses driven by improved wetting and self- assembly. It is also possible these additives can change the drying dynamics of the disinfectant, which could play a vital role in modulating antiviral activity.

Combination Effects

It is possible that developing the improved antiviral surface alone will contribute to viral mitigation, but we anticipate that re-engineering disinfecting solutions should also be considered as a stand-alone solution. Additionally, if we utilize a smart disinfectant formulated with these additives, on an improved antiviral surface we engineered to receive them, we may see even greater synergistic effects.