The recent invention of a now-patented technology for the production of hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants by an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Hyderabad) is another classic case of taking cutting-edge research and development and its swift introduction to the marketplace.
Dr Jyotsnendu Giri, an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at IIT-Hyderabad, along with his team of researchers, not only developed a first-of-its-kind nano-formulation adhesive to fight bacteria and viruses including the coronavirus, but also started his own company to make available the products in the market. The products that range from alcohol-based and foam-based hand sanitisers, anti-viral spray for facemasks, and a surface disinfectant are available on e-commerce platforms Amazon and Flipkart at affordable rates, apart from the company’s website. The journey from lab to market took the team only 12 months.
The series of hygiene products was e-launched during an online event by Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on April 16.
The response from the market has been great, says Dr. Giri, adding that it was exactly a year ago that the team started mulling about the need for a disinfectant or sanitiser that killed bacteria and viruses instantly and lasted long. “Our hand sanitisers last for up to 24 hours and kills pathogens in 60 seconds. The surface disinfectants last for up to 35 days. We have two patents for our DuroKea technology and there is no such product available in the country or elsewhere.”
The USP of the products, according to him: “long-lasting, instant killing, and economical.”
While Eaffocare Innovation Private Limited, his start-up incubated at IIT-Hyderabad remains the research wing, another start-up KeaBiotech launched by him manages the marketing responsibilities. The team was able to do research and development, field testing, and launch the products in such a short span, and Dr. Giri says he did not approach any pharma companies to market his product. When he was confident about the product and its market, he took a loan from the Government of India’s Stand-up India scheme for up to Rs 10 crore.
“Usually it takes a lot of time for research and technology to reach the market. One has to wait for any venture capitalist to invest in the product. If your product has potential, it is better to take it up yourself. To break the chain, I took a loan and started another company KeaBiotech to take care of marketing responsibilities,” said the 44-year-old, acknowledging the effort and support from IIT-Hyderabad.
Dr. Giri has been working at the institution since 2013, after working in the US for a decade. When the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March 2020, the IIT-Hyderabad had started distributing sanitisers of WHO-recommended formulations to various hospitals. Dr. Giri says this is when he understood the need for a better product as his team has been researching nanomedicine for a long time. This was also the time when people were discouraged from touching surfaces as various studies had suggested that coronavirus could stay life for long on different surfaces.
But the team found a few companies in the US and the UK which sold long-lasting saline-based surface disinfectants. According to him, those were water-based, very expensive, and took at least 30 minutes to kill bacteria or viruses on surfaces. Besides, there were no sanitisers or anti-viral spray for face masks.
“What we have developed is an alcohol-based nanoparticle formulation that combines three mechanisms to kill pathogens in 60 seconds. It has an adhesive property that enables nano-roughness to remain on the surface, the particles have molecular needles, and they release active molecules.” For example, after spraying the anti-viral solution on the outer surface of the face mask, one could go around with the surety that any viral particles that come in contact with the mask are killed instantly. “These products have been tested on coronavirus too.”
Stating that many more products are in the pipeline, he said his team is developing painkiller sprays that are economical and last as long as 24 hours, unlike other currently available products which last for half an hour or so.