Whereas the fallout from coronavirus has shuttered and silenced companies throughout the island, the telephones at surface-coating expertise firm Kastus have been hopping. Kastus produces “at all times on” antimicrobial safety for glass and ceramic surfaces on smartphones, autoclaves and touchscreen kiosks and the corporate’s chief govt, John Browne, says there was a pointy spike in inquiries since coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

“We’ve been flat out and dealing 14-hour days,” he says. “Within the final two weeks we’ve had over a dozen inquiries from potential prospects who need us to produce them instantly. That is in sharp distinction to what we’d skilled so far, which have been lengthy lead occasions and delayed decision-making, particularly by the large multinationals. That’s modified virtually in a single day. There’s now an urgency to the inquiries with potential prospects wanting our product immediately. Now we have good connections in China, so we’ve been conscious of how issues have been unfolding there, and we took steps to make sure we had ample shares constructed up. This places us in a robust place to profit from the chance now in entrance of us.”

Browne is acutely conscious that there’s a human price to the potential gross sales enhance, however says the popularity is the fruits of greater than eight years of R&D that led Kastus to take its first tentative steps in the direction of commercialisation in 2017. Since then, employment on the firm has grown to 18 folks and it’s the technique of closing a funding spherical of €10 million.

“The enterprise has been progressing slowly however steadily, initially with a €three million funding spherical that allowed us to commercialise the product, make key hires and bolster our IP technique,” says Browne, whose firm gained the general Irish Occasions Innovation of the 12 months award in 2017 for its pioneering coating that may kill 99.99 per cent of dangerous micro organism and superbugs comparable to E.coli and MRSA. The (Irish-made) coating is sprayed on to a floor and sintered into it by high-temperature baking to type a bug-repelling laborious floor layer.

Robust gross sales pipeline

“We had constructed up a robust gross sales pipeline for the subsequent three years, all export-based, and in December final we signed a take care of the multimillion greenback US firm Zagg which produces protecting coverings for client electronics and hand-held units,” Browne says. “In equity to the crew and to the traders who’ve supported us, we’ve labored lengthy and laborious for this chance. The coronavirus has been the catalyst that made the penny lastly drop with producers that they have to be defending their merchandise with our merchandise as a result of as soon as one thing is coated it’s secure for all times.”

Browne predicts that how folks work together with contact surfaces comparable to ATMs and different varieties of kiosks with shared screens (airport check-in machines, for instance) might be modified perpetually by the pandemic. “Individuals’s behaviour is altering already and as our expertise is relevant throughout quite a few varieties of surfaces, this shift in behaviour might be an enormous ongoing alternative for us,” he says.

Cronavirus can also be giving a leg as much as a second Irish firm concerned with novel floor coatings, Limerick-based Mica NanoTech. It has developed a product to coat textiles utilized in healthcare comparable to dressings and hospital robes to kill persistent bugs together with MRSA and CPE. As with Kastus, the R&D has been prolonged and kicked off in 2009 when Dr Patrick Cronin started engaged on it as a part of his PhD.

As with Kastus, the potential marketplace for Mica NanoTech’s expertise is big. Drug-resistant micro organism killed greater than 33,000 folks in Europe in 2015 and a 2018 report from the OECD says antimicrobial resistant infections will kill 2.four million folks by 2050.

“Only a few merchandise such because the robes and drapes utilized by the NHS within the UK and the HSE right here have an antimicrobial coating,” Dr Cronin says. “The well being companies like the concept of it however they’re not ready to pay for it though we’re solely speaking about just a few cents per garment. Secondly, one of many large points within the present disaster is a scarcity of facemasks largely as a result of they’re single use and disposable. It’s totally possible to provide masks with an antiviral/antimicrobial coating to allow them to be reused.”

Antiviral coating

Mica NanoTech was spun out from UL in 2018 and Cronin was joined within the start-up by co-founder and supplies scientist Dr Michal Osiak and businessman Ray Kirwan, co-founder of DoneDeal. The corporate employs 4 and is elevating about €800,000 to additional its R&D and construct out the enterprise. To date, the corporate’s focus has been on antibacterial coatings nevertheless it has additionally been growing an antiviral coating that’s displaying constructive ends in testing and may very well be prepared for market within the subsequent 12-18 months.

“Final Friday, the EU put out a name for firms to return ahead with options to assist forestall the unfold/re-emergence of the coronavirus long run,” Ray Kirwan says. “They normally give firms a two- to three-month window by which to reply. This time it was per week. Now we have utilized for funding below this initiative and if we’re profitable it would enable us to additional develop our expertise and to construct a facility by which we might coat clothes comparable to healthcare employees’ clothes ourselves.”

Like Kastus, Mica NanoTech has seen a ramping up of inquiries during the last two weeks and initiatives that have been shifting slowly have accelerated. The corporate is working with an Irish-based producer of surgical wipes and a US-based producer of absorbent pads for working theatres.

A number of makes use of

Patrick Cronin says the healthcare sector must recognise that coatings aren’t “good to have” however an answer that may play a key strategic position in illness prevention. “That is the place folks’s heads have to be now – not responding after the occasion,” he says. “Nobody factor goes to unravel the issues the world is going through when it comes to the unfold of illnesses and viruses. It’s going to be a mix of issues and specialised coatings are considered one of them as they are often utilized throughout an entire number of surfaces. These coatings have a number of makes use of: furnishings in crèches, airline seats and the automotive business. The truth is we’re at present working with a automobile firm on antiviral measures for air filters. We very a lot see our mission as delivering environmentally sustainable coating processes utilizing a safety-by-design method to realize effectivity, low price and efficiency to guard our communities and the surroundings.”

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