Galway medtech develops mask spray to block 99pc of pathogens

8 Mar 2021

Aquila Bioscience’s ProShield spray. Image: NUI Galway

Scientists at NUI Galway spin-out Aquila Bioscience have developed a spray for resuable masks that uses pathogen-capturing technology.

Reusable face masks have become a common sight during the Covid-19 pandemic as people seek out ways of minimising the spread of the virus without relying on single-use personal protective equipment (PPE). Now Aquila Bioscience, a medtech spin-out from NUI Galway, has developed a new barrier spray that it claims will make these reusable masks up to 99pc effective at blocking airborne pathogens and particles.

The ProShield spray is described by the team at Aquila Bioscience as a safe, alcohol-free nanofibre protective coating. It follows the medtech’s first product, a decontamination wipe that uses the same signature pathogen-capturing technology. This tech contains microscopic Velcro-like structures that bind to harmful pathogens and neutralise them.

Aquila Bioscience tested the efficacy of the ProShield spray using different fabric materials. According to the team, the results showed it improved the efficacy of fabric material to block pathogens by between 94pc and 99.5pc.

“With growing awareness of waste created by single-use PPE and the toll it is taking on the environment, it is imperative that we develop innovative, environmentally conscious products that are safe to use and effectively protect users,” said Aquila Bioscience founder Prof Lokesh Joshi.

“Due to an exponential rise in the number of disposable masks used daily, there has been a huge surge in ocean pollution worldwide. Discarded plastic masks end up everywhere – roadsides, fields, lakes, rivers and all the way to the oceans, getting tangled up in wildlife along the way. They can take hundreds of years to slowly degrade into microplastics, which are then ingested by marine life.

“People should be advised to wear reusable face masks and now we have a technology, inspired by nature, to improve protection from fabric and cotton masks by blocking up to 99pc of airborne pathogens.”

NUI Galway’s director of technology transfer and innovation, David Murphy, added: “Timing is everything. Aquila Bioscience had developed the technology and now, in less than 12 months, they have developed a range of exciting products to address the global need for protection against Covid-19 and other pathogens.

“This remarkable journey is testimony to the expertise and dedication of the company, and the entrepreneurial environment at NUI Galway.”

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021