Antimicrobial Tech Receives NSF Funding to Target COVID-19

Ted Evelyth and Mingyo Qiao of Halomine pitch their antimicrobial tech at Grow-NY.

Antimicrobial Tech Receives NSF Funding to Target COVID-19

The commercialization of a Cornell-created antimicrobial coating technology that keeps surfaces clean by extending the life of chlorine-based disinfectants—by days and even weeks—is being fast-tracked to determine how well it can combat COVID-19.

Halomine Inc., an Upstate New York I-Corps alumni company which took first place in a startup competition organized by Entrepreneurship at Cornell last November and was a 2019 Grow-NY finalist is behind the biomaterials innovation.

Its potential to prevent COVID-19 from contaminating private and public spaces has attracted the interest of the National Science Foundation, which on May 21 awarded the company $256,000 from its COVID-19 Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program to expedite the product’s development. The company received a separate $225,000 RAPID grant from the NSF on May 12 to fight hospital-based infections related to COVID-19.

Ted Eveleth, CEO of Halomine, pitches at the Grow-NY Competition in November 2019.
Ted Eveleth, CEO of Halomine, pitches the company’s antimicrobial coating technology at the 2019 Grow-NY Summit.

Halomine’s flagship product, HaloFilm, was created before the coronavirus pandemic began for the purpose of for agriculture and food safety, but according to Mingyu Qiao, Halomine’s Chief Technology Officer, the company realized the product could have another important application.

“Originally, we were targeting bacteria for agricultural use, but the problem of bacteria is the same in the hospital,” said Qiao. “Then this pandemic happened, so we quickly responded to the virus outbreak. When you’re an academic, your technology may only have one stated purpose, but if it’s a very good technology, you suddenly find it has a broad application and can address some immediate crisis.”

HaloFilm, licensed through Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing, can be applied to a wide range of surfaces and materials, including plastic, metal and even fabric. It functions as a binding agent, with one adhesive molecule clinging to the surface it’s applied to, and a different molecule (N-halamine) forming a rechargeable covalent bond with chlorine.

Once the HaloFilm is sprayed on a surface, any chlorinated cleaner or off-the-shelf sanitizer can be applied atop it. Without HaloFilm, these disinfectants would only last for about an hour before evaporating, thus allowing pathogens to take root and spread. But HaloFilm locks in the chlorine and aims to keep high-touch surfaces free of bacteria and viruses for up to a week before the disinfectant or sanitizer needs to be reapplied. Low-traffic areas should remain protected for up to a month.

Read the full story on Halomine and its antimicrobial coating technology in the Cornell Chronicle.