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AMBER and tech company Kastus collaborate in battle against superbugs

20 February 2018

AMBER, the materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin, has announced a collaboration with Irish tech company Kastus, which is fighting the battle against superbugs.

The collaboration will involve specialised research work on the further development of antimicrobial coatings, which have already been commercialised by Kastus, the antimicrobial experts.

The research programme, which is valued at €280,000, will see two academic experts in science and engineering join Kastus from AMBER, which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

Dr Aran Rafferty and Dr Ehsan Rezvani are both being seconded to Kastus under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Industry Fellowship Programme, which supports industry-academia research partnerships.
The SFI Industry Fellowship Programme aims to enhance industry-academia collaborations, and to stimulate excellence in knowledge exchange and training of engineers and scientists. The programme funds the temporary placement of academic researchers in industry, and of industry researchers in academia.

Kastus made world headlines after its development of ground-breaking technology to prevent the spread of superbugs. The chemical solution was developed by scientists after more than a decade of research. It can be used to protect a range of high-touch everyday surfaces —including ceramic and glass tiles, smartphones, glass, door handles and metals— from harmful bacteria and micro-organisms, such as MRSA and E. coli.
The UK Government estimates that by 2050, drug-resistant infections will kill more than 10 million people a year worldwide and will be a bigger killer than cancer. It will also cost more than three per cent of Global GDP. Using nanotechnology, Kastus’ novel and patented technology can be applied during the production process, rendering the surface 99.9 per cent resistant to superbugs like MRSA, E. coli and other fungi.

It is the first that can be practically factory applied on everyday hard surfaces such as ceramic wall and floor tiles using no toxic bi-products. Previous antimicrobial solutions needed UV light or biocide chemical leaching to be activated but Kastus’ products are activated by indoor light and environmental moisture.

Last October, Kastus won the overall prize at the Irish Times innovation awards and also picked up the life science and healthcare category. The company also won the Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Spin-Out Company Impact Award which recognised the “successful and significant” work the company has done over the past year in the fight against the spread of superbugs.

Kastus received a €1.5m investment led by Atlantic Bridge University Fund, which invests in companies built from world-class research. Chris Horn, Partner with Atlantic Bridge, has joined the board of Kastus.

Dr James Kennedy, Kastus Director of Innovation and Operations, said:“The collaboration with Science Foundation Ireland through AMBER is an exciting move for Kastus and demonstrates the links that we are continuing to forge with academia. We are already working with Crest (Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology) at Dublin Institute of Technology and believe that collaboration between academic research and industry is key to major breakthroughs in technology.

“World-class research is extremely important to Kastus and with two highly-qualified and respected researchers joining the Kastus team, this can only propel the company even further. As Kastus is already an Enterprise Ireland client, it is very exciting to have a start-up join forces with both Enterprise Ireland and SFI.”

Prof. Michael Morris, AMBER Director, said: “Our collaboration with Kastus has the potential to significantly impact how MRSA and other superbugs are controlled and prevented in hospital and community settings. Our researchers in AMBER are globally renowned for the quality of our materials science and we have a unique set of state-of-the-art infrastructure which will benefit this engagement.

“I am delighted that Aran and Ehsan will have the opportunity to work with Kastus through Science Foundation Ireland’s Industry Fellowship Programme, which has already funded 20 AMBER fellowships to date.”

Dr Aran Rafferty, researcher in AMBER, is an expert in materials R&D and problem-solving, with specialist knowledge of technical glass and ceramic development. Dr Rafferty has contributed to materials textbooks, authored 20+ peer-reviewed papers, and has presented lectures in fundamental glass science to industry. His work with Kastus will focus on the development of optimised coating formulations and processes.

Dr Ehsan Rezvani, a post-doctoral researcher working in Trinity’s School of Physics, gained a PhD in materials under the supervision of Prof. Georg Duesberg from AMBER, and has worked for the last three years in Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

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AMBER has a strong emphasis on collaboration. Central to AMBER’s research remit are collaborative projects performed with industry partners, and working with academic, industry and wider stakeholder on international and national research programmes.

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