Giancarlo Beevis, the CEO of the Canadian biotech firm Intelligent Fabric Technologies North America (IFTNA), introduced a proprietary anti-viral chemical—PROTX2 AV, that destroyed 99.9% of COVID-19 virus within 10 minutes, with residual killing power for 24 hours. The fabric chemical penetrates the virus's outer shell and destroys its replication process. This chemical can be effectively applied to the textile finishing process without requiring additional machinery or steps. The material went through tests under the American Association of Textile Chemists standards, making it the first antimicrobial textile chemical to be proven, as per U.S. codes, to deactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Passing a COVID-19 test on a dry textile is tricky, says Beevis, as the antimicrobial fabrics often need moisture, like sweat or ambient water vapor, to activate, and COVID-19 replicates faster and stays on surfaces for longer in comparison to other viruses.
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Having been passed the test and with permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brands across the world be able to create PROTX2 AV-treated textiles. They will earn a scientific and marketing edge over products. The EPA will eventually decide whether the company can claim its product kills COVID in its marketing.
Though many antimicrobial textile companies cite protection against COVID-19, it is the non-COVID-19 viruses they do kill in actuality. The uninformed consumers may consumers might interpret this message as protection against COVID-19, which would be false. However, there are several kinds of viruses that affect humans, and those products/materials do kill them, but not COVID-19. Although SARS-CoV-2 is a type of viruses, it doesn't don't react the same way to the same chemicals.
CEO Giancarlo Beevis stated, 'What makes it difficult is that we don't know much about COVID or how it's going to react. That's what makes it different than the human coronavirus. The human strain is like the common cold. With COVID-19, we don't know what that virus is going to do."
This qualifying test would have significant market implications, as loosening restrictions threaten COVID-19 resurgence. The U.S. accounts for 1.6 million of the world's 5.5 million cases. Analysts anticipate that the global surgical apparel market to reach nearly $19 billion by 2025 and the antimicrobial textile market to surpass $20.5 billion by 2026.
The surge in interest for an anti-viral product has IFTNA creating a PROTX2 AV-treated laundry additive for home laundering by fall. The company is also starting to produce its protective equipment (PPE) and will launch a lifestyle travel brand called Underit later in 2020 or by 2021. The PPE and the portion of the Underit line will be treated with the anti-viral chemical.
The manufacturing partners of PROTX 2 AV- which includes several well-known consumer labels- plans to incorporate PROTX 2 AV into their products. Careismatic Brands, a global healthcare apparel and footwear company, has already begun corroborating tests in anticipation of creating anti-viral products, like scrubs, lab coats, gowns, and masks. "The antimicrobial textile market is going to be one of the rare markets that will experience a short-term bounce from the COVID pandemic as well as long-term growth," says Scott Pantel, CEO of Life Science Intelligence. "Companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all coming into the healthcare space, and consumer demand for antimicrobial material is going to be massive. If these guys are the first to test against COVID successfully, they're going to be huge winners."
A little bit of history
In 2012, IFTNA developed its anti-viral version, which didn't earn much interest at that time. "No one wanted it," Beevis says. "The big deal in healthcare environments is bacteria. Their highest costs involve bacterial infections that make people stay longer, cause complications, or create readmittance. Viruses, like SARS or the flu, come and go. But it's not the main concern in a healthcare facility."
In the same year, Beevis also unsuccessfully tried to introduce PROTX2 AV to the cruise line industry to control Norovirus outbreaks traced to reusable polyester napkins. "We got blocked out by a massive cleaning company," says Beevis. The cruise line looked for adding a PROTX2 AV treatment to washes instead of purchasing a new inventory of pre-treated napkins and linens. The cleaning company associated with it wanted to know the kinds of chemicals being used, and IFTNA declined to release the proprietary ingredients and risk intellectual property theft. "These were much larger companies than we were. They didn't care enough to make it work, so it stayed on the shelf," says Beevis.
Beevis is now awaiting regulatory approval. IFTNA is in connection with the EPA to fast-track its application, under an emergency-use provision, to allow manufacturing partners using PROTX2 AV to claim their textiles have been proved to kill COVID-19 legally. It's also talking to the Federal Drug Administration about approving specific PROTX2 AV-treated devices.