The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase II award for $1 million to Kismet Technologies to further its research and development of a broad-spectrum residual antimicrobial technology that eradicates COVID-19 among other bacteria and viruses.
The company, led by UCF materials science and engineering alumna Christina Drake ’07PhD, is working with a multidisciplinary team of UCF researchers, including Department of Materials Science and Engineering Chair Sudipta Seal, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Director Griff Parks and College of Medicine Professor Melanie Coathup, to further research the residual antimicrobial technology. Kismet Technologies is one of 10 recipients of the STTR award this year.
College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Michael Georgiopoulos says this award demonstrates the power of collaboration at UCF.
“One of the key goals of CECS is to be the nation’s technology partner leader,” Georgiopoulos says. “This collaboration of UCF faculty with Kismet Technologies is a testament to the creativity, innovation, and building-together culture of our faculty and alumni.”
During phase I testing, the team proved the antimicrobial technology could kill COVID-19 and other serious viruses such as parainfluenza and Zika.
“We made remarkable progress in phase I,” Parks says. “We had a multidisciplinary team that brought their expertise in materials science, biology, microbiology and project development. It was such a great learning experience for the whole group.”
But the group still has more to learn about the antimicrobial technology, which was submitted for patent filing last year. How long can it last under hospital conditions on surfaces? Does it work as effectively on biologically soiled surfaces? These are some of the questions the team hopes to answer during Phase II testing.
“The next steps are to thoroughly test the antibacterial properties of the coating under varying, and as such, more realistic human and environmental conditions; conditions that may challenge the potency of the formulation,” Coathup says. “We aim to confirm its efficacy despite these circumstances.”
Those real-world conditions include testing the antimicrobial technology on surfaces coated in dust, dirt or other biological fluids. The goal is to understand the product’s limits and opportunities in demanding healthcare settings.
Aside from the final product, the best thing to come from the project is the partnership between UCF researchers. Parks says there are many more opportunities for the College of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Computer Science to work together and share their expertise.
“The partnership between COM and CECS is only the tip of the iceberg of what we could be doing,” Parks says. “If you get the right people talking, interacting, thinking about the problem and each bringing to the table what they’re good at, it works.”
About the Researchers
Seal joined UCF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center, which is part of UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, in 1997. He has an appointment at the College of Medicine and is a member of UCF’s Biionix faculty cluster initiative. He is the former director of UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center. He received his doctorate in materials engineering with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California Berkeley.
Coathup is a professor of medicine at the UCF College of Medicine, the director of the Biionix faculty cluster, and a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Coathup’s research is focused on orthopaedic innovation with the view of applying scientific discovery to improve the treatment and care of patients. Her research focuses on novel biomaterials and small molecule therapeutics that boost bone repair when under challenging and complex physiological conditions, such as during aging, infection, radiotherapy and bone health when in the extreme environment of space.
Parks is the College of Medicine’s associate dean for Research. He came to UCF in 2014 as director of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences after 20 years at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, where he was professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He earned his doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin and was an American Cancer Society Fellow at Northwestern University.