Frontline workers receive new technology to protect against COVID-19

This week Aquila Bioscience started delivery of AntiBioAgent Decontamination Wipes to frontline services in Ireland, including the Defence Forces, the HSE and An Post.

AntiBioAgent Decontamination Wipes (ABDs) will serve as a safe and effective decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and postal workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Aquila is a spin-out of NUI Galway, and the concept for this technology was driven by the Irish Defence Forces and an identified capability need in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) protection measures. ABD technology was developed by University researchers to safely and effectively decontaminate multiple bio-threat agents (including viruses), and its use will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19.

ABDs contain components that bind to and decontaminate the surface, trapping the virus for safe disposal. Unlike other decontamination methods, which contain chemicals that can be harmful to skin, ABDs contain no harmful ingredients and can be used on skin and sensitive mucosal areas such as eyes, nose and mouth (the main portals for virus infection).

Professor Lokesh Joshi, the founder of Aquila Bioscience and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway said that, “It was the pioneering work done with the Defence Forces Ordnance Corps in countering biological pathogens that led to the development of the ABDs, and the hope is by now putting these in the hands of frontline workers, it will allow them to more effectively protect themselves and the people they’re helping in the fight against coronavirus”.

Pic: Courtesy Irish Defence Forces Press Office

Speaking today, Comdt Sharon McManus from the Defence Forces said: The Defence Forces needs to innovate their procedures and technologies regularly to deal with constant challenges presented to them, as well as to gain value and efficiency for the organisation. Research, technology & innovation activities are long term cycles and the ABDs are an example of this innovation cycle. Collaboration started with Aquila Bioscience over four years over, when the Ordnance Corps identified a need for a specific PPE which would deal with chemical agents and through the research and development phases also discovered its relevance for biological agents. Aquila Bioscience, of NUIG, an Irish start up, were the ideal partners to work with in developing this product. The personal protection of our key asset, our people, is of the utmost importance to the Defence Forces. The Defence forces have now procured a large quantity of these ABDs and these will be distributed to our troops both at home and overseas for ongoing force protection as well as during the Covid-19 crisis.

In welcoming the official launch of the ABD wipe, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, DSM, Chief of Staff, Óglaigh na hÉireann remarked; “For many years I have been to the forefront in advocating for open diverse networks to sense and explore answers to challenging problems. In some cases we have created diverse partnerships to seize and exploit these ideas with a view to creating new technologies, with end user solutions to end user identified problems working with academia, enterprise and others. It was such a partnership that enabled our Defence Forces’ Ordnance Corps to collaborate with researchers from NUI Galway, as far back as 2016, to develop a cellulose based material for wipes and masks specifically designed to capture microbes such as COVID-19 virus, trapping them inside the material, thereby reducing transmission of the pathogen. I am delighted to see the culmination of our joint research and innovation with NUI Galway in delivering this non chemical, bio-degradable wipe for use by the Defence Forces and first responders from the HSE, An Post and others, during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Pic: Courtesy Irish Defence Forces Press Office

While there is significant demand for ABDs from other international armed forces and healthcare providers, Aquila is currently focused on supplying public service agencies in Ireland.  Prof Joshi added, “As we ramp up our production over the coming weeks we’ll be better able to supply some of the international agencies currently seeking our help in the struggle in their countries, and make this new technology part of the global fight against COVID-19”.

Aquila Bioscience is an Irish life science company set up by Professor Lokesh Joshi in Galway in 2012.  It was spun out of The National University of Galway incubator program and today is still located on NUI Galway’s campus.  The company’s area of expertise is in the fight against chronic and infectious diseases, primarily using cell stress and glycoscience.  Aquila has developed a number of biochemical technologies, one of which has been applied in a proprietary product called AntiBioAgent Decontamination Wipes (ABDs).  ABDs have been tested to be effective in the removal of dangerous pathogens found in the H1N1 influenza virus, Anthrax and E. coli.

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