Forty-eight million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses every year. With $600,000 in federal funding, Halomine, a Cornell startup, is focused on revolutionizing the sanitation of food processing equipment.
The award, allocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, closed out an impactful year for Halomine, which is focused on creating antimicrobial coating technology to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens.
In 2020, Halomine won $250,000 at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit and received two National Science Foundation (NSF) awards to develop its antimicrobial coating technology—$256,000 from the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program to expedite product development related to the virus and a separate $225,000 grant for product development oriented toward other non-food applications.
The startup is a member of Cornell’s technology incubator Praxis Center for Venture Development, and is developing antimicrobial solutions—licensed through Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing—to ensure food safety. Halomine is also partnered with the McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences to conduct biological research and testing against coronaviruses.
The technology came out of a collaboration between Minglin Ma, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and former postdoctoral researcher, Mingyu Qiao. Realizing the commercial viability of their innovation—which they explored in-depth as UNY I-Corps and I-Corps Teams alumni—the pair partnered with Ted Eveleth, MBA ’90, to launch Halomine in 2019.
“Amidst the pandemonium of the pandemic, Cornell-based Halomine is conducting vital research that will give New Yorkers the peace of mind that the food on their tables is safe to eat,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “Contaminated food sickens millions and kills thousands of Americans every year making proper food processing equipment sanitation all the more important to keeping consumers healthy.”
The startup’s flagship product, HaloFilm, can be applied to a variety of surfaces and materials to extend the life of chlorine-based disinfectants. Halofilm acts as a binding agent, with one adhesive molecule clinging to the surface on which it is sprayed, and another molecule (N-halamine) forming a rechargeable covalent bond with the chlorine in the disinfectant that is applied on top. Typically, these disinfectants would only be effective for about an hour before evaporating, but HaloFilm locks in the chlorine, keeping high-touch surfaces free of bacteria and viruses for up to a week and low-touch area protected for up to a month before the disinfectant needs to be reapplied—great news for food processing plants.
“We appreciate the support that we have gotten from so many different agencies and officials, and are diligently working to bring HaloFilm to market as quickly as possible. The funding has been critical to support our technical development for a product that, clearly, will address a significant need,” said Ted Eveleth, CEO of Halomine.
One of the primary objectives of the USDA Phase II SBIR is related to manufacturing and scaling-up production. Halomine is in the midst of a scale-up that should result in a material ready for trials, and possibly even sale in the first quarter of 2021, while development and demonstration of the product within a food setting continues.
A version of this story appears in the Cornell Chronicle.