Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can no longer imagine life without the little bottles of hand sanitiser as an alternative to soap and water. A Swiss breakthrough now looks set to make them even better.
Effective hand sanitisation is one of the best methods of reducing the spread of disease-causing agents. But there is one major drawback with existing hand sanitisers: they can disinfect our hands only for one or two minutes, that is, until the alcohol evaporates. This deficit is being tackled by the start-up company Lumendo in cooperation with Empa and with the support of Innosuisse.
Long-term protection for hand sanitiser
The Disigel hand sanitiser is a novel gel-based approach consisting of a polymeric and an antimicrobial agent that form a permanent antibacterial and antiviral layer to protect the skin lasting several hours. The innovative solution enables users to touch infected surfaces without taking the risk of infecting themselves or spreading infections in their environment. The need to wear gloves, change them frequently, wash or disinfect hands after every possible contact, would not be required anymore. Tests are currently being conducted in the laboratory at ETH Zurich together with Empa specialists to optimise this new type of gel.
99.9% reduction of bacteria in tests
According to Andreas Schmocker, CEO of Lumendo, currently no such durable solution exists. “Ethanol is the most commonly used hand sanitiser. It is inexpensive to produce and highly effective at killing microorganisms in seconds. But one disadvantage of ethanol is that it is highly volatile and evaporates in a few minutes. Our solution provides an alternative because it effectively eliminates microorganisms and provides much longer, sustainable protection.”
Ongoing research involves identifying the right chemicals and determining their concentration so that the ideal formula has high antimicrobial activity and does not cause skin irritation. First results show that even after washing of the sample up to 20 times or soaking in water for two hours, a 99.9% reduction of bacteria was still observed.
Lumendo is currently looking to partner with large manufacturing companies to further develop Disigel into a market-ready product.
Not the first innovation
Before developing a new hand sanitiser gel to fight COVID-19 and other diseases, Lumendo created new-generation injectable surgical fillers that solidify inside the body using light. These can be used to form implants in any area inside the body – for example in teeth and in bones, and even in the brain. As soon as the liquid solution is placed in the right position, the light source can be activated. This allows the surgeon precise control over a procedure.