An Irish med-tech firm could make your smartphone and toilet 'superbug'-free

BY CONOR MCMAHON / REPORTER, FORA / JUNE 10TH 2017

As part of our weekly Startup Spotlight series, we profile Kastus.

THERE IS MORE bacteria on your smartphone than there is on a toilet seat – which is good news for Dublin-based startup Kastus.

Together with a team of Irish and UK scientists, the med-tech firm last year unveiled nanotechnology that has a 99.9% kill-rate against harmful, antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

It was the culmination of more than a decade of research, which led to the creation of a patented solution that has the ability to kill deadly microorganisms and stop them from spreading.

Kastus was founded four years ago to flog the spray-on solution to manufacturers around the world so that other firms can make glass, metal and ceramic surfaces resistant to potentially lethal bacteria like MRSA and E. coli.

“We’re not proposing to wrap the world in cotton and make everything antimicrobial,” he says. “What we’re doing is manufacturing products that have real-world applications and uses.”

The firm has already completed scaling trials with large, ceramic-tile makers in the Middle East. Browne expects to announce the details of those deals before the end of the summer.

“We’re at the stage now where we’re jetting around and visiting customers who are frequently asking for us to visit them and showing active interest,” he says.

The technology’s everyday uses range from smartphones, to bathroom fixtures and door handles.

“Our potential range of applications and uses is enormous,” Kastus founder and chief executive John Browne tells Fora. “We’re forecasting very significant revenues over the next three years.”

He says a €1.5 million funding round announced last year was validation of the technology’s commercial merit.

It’s also no harm to have the likes of Bill Gates “blogging about antimicrobial resistance being the biggest threat to mankind”, Browne says.

Kastus CEO John Browne

Kastus CEO John Browne

“We’re not proposing to wrap the world in cotton and make everything antimicrobial,” he says. “What we’re doing is manufacturing products that have real-world applications and uses.”

The firm has already completed scaling trials with large, ceramic-tile makers in the Middle East. Browne expects to announce the details of those deals before the end of the summer.

“We’re at the stage now where we’re jetting around and visiting customers who are frequently asking for us to visit them and showing active interest,” he says.

“There are no other products on the market that have the same attractiveness and functionality. We’re in a position where we know it’s time to take advantage of that.”

Marketing potential

As well as trialing its technology in the ceramic plant, Kastus has met with two major smartphone companies with the view of adding the solution to their manufacturing process.

Citing commercial sensitivity, Browne says he can’t reveal the names of those companies. But when asked to explain why phone makers would be interested in the technology, he adds: “I think it’s probably a marketing USP (unique-selling-point) as much as anything else.

“I think we see them all struggle for USP. At the end of the day, it’s a piece of glass that you speak into. There is a growing knowledge out there of just how dirty these things are.”

A smartphone shop

A smartphone shop

While there are other firms that have developed antimicrobial materials, Browne says Kastus’s technology is unique because it uses indoor lighting to activate a physical process that kills the bacteria rather than a risky silver-leaching technique.

“Essentially, other products are not anyway near as effective as ours,” he says. “Sometimes they’re limited in the type of bacteria that they kill.”

The Kastus way promises to kill the bacteria so it can’t develop immunity or mutate to become “even-more-super superbugs”.

Browne says another element that makes Kastus’s technology commercially viable is that it doesn’t interfere in the manufacturing process.

“Most of these end products or components are conveyor-based manufacturing systems,” he says. “Our stage in the process is just simply another spray booth. It’s a relatively small (expense) compared to the machinery already in place.”

For now the company is focused mainly on the ceramics manufacturing industry, which is more keen to adopt the material because companies “are essentially selling a commodity so they’re looking for USP”.

“Because it’s a relatively new suite of technologies, you will have some reluctance in the glass market in particular,” Browne says.

“They tend to be trend-followers. If one company releases a new product that has potential for success the rest follow. The glass business is a difficult nut to crack.”

According to its most recent set of accounts, Kastus reported a slender loss in the financial year ended 31 December 2015.

Browne believes the company to be profitable by mid-2018 based on the size of the operations by its potential customer base. The firm expects to report a turnover in the tens of millions of euro by 2020.

“When the floodgates open, we’ll build the team very quickly,” Browne says, with the view to grow the nine-person team to 70 employees by the end of 2019.

Superbug-resistant toilets could save lives

A glaze will be baked on surfaces to kill harmful bacteria such as MRSA.  Image: GETTY IMAGES

A glaze will be baked on surfaces to kill harmful bacteria such as MRSA.  Image: GETTY IMAGES

Article by Aaron Rogan / May 23 2017, The Times

Toilets that kill germs could be a reality by the end of the year, according to an Irish company working to stop the spread of superbugs.

A groundbreaking agent will be baked on surfaces to kill harmful bacteria and micro-organisms such as MRSA, which is antibiotic resistant, and E. coli.

John Browne, the founder of Kastus, which is based in the Dublin Institute of Technology’s Grangegorman campus, said that the company was working with multinationals who made ceramics and sanitary products.

“There has been an unbelievable response from this industry and I firmly believe that superbug-free toilets and bathrooms are going to be the next big thing,” Mr Browne said. “I have no doubt that by the end of the year we will see superbug-resistant toilets coming onto the market.”

Kastus’s water-based solution can be applied to surfaces during the production process, rendering the surface 99.9 per cent resistant to superbugs.

Mr. Browne said entire rooms and units in hospital could potentially be built using the material, which would be a significant step in stopping the spread of such bacteria and diseases. “Thorough deep cleans of areas such as intensive care unit rooms are periodically carried out in hospitals to rid them of bacteria. However, bacteria starts to come back into that room within 24 hours. If you had a bathroom constructed using superbug-resistant materials, the surfaces themselves would be continuously killing the bacteria,” Mr Browne said.

“Toilets, sinks, floor and wall tiles, shower spaces, bathrooms and wet rooms, as well as all the taps and faucets — all of these can be treated with our antimicrobial solution, which means that you could have rooms which would be completely superbug resistant and in which no bacteria or bugs could survive.”

Mr Browne said it could also be used in other public buildings and hotels that had been affected by superbugs. He said that in future the agent could be baked into smartphones and other consumer devices.

All 193 UN member states pledged last year to act against the misuse of antibiotics.

George Osborne, the former British chancellor, warned last year that superbugs could become deadlier than cancer and were on course to kill 10 million people a year by 2050. He said that drug-resistant bacteria could escalate into a global crisis costing £70 trillion.

At least 50 different strains of MRSA have been identified in Irish hospitals in the past 14 years as the bug has mutated and become resistant to more drugs.

Kastus shortlisted for 'The Irish Times' Innovation awards.

We are thrilled to have been nominated for another award for our ground-breaking work to prevent the spread of superbugs. Kastus is one of three companies shortlisted in the Life Sciences and Healthcare category of The Irish Times Innovation Awards, which showcase and reward excellence in innovation across a range of ground-breaking products and services. Our CEO John Browne will be presenting to a panel of judges at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June 21 before we join all the other brilliant nominees at the awards ceremony on October 11.

Irish firm Kastus wins award for solution that kills superbugs

DIT start-up says its solution can protect surfaces from fatal drug-resistant superbugs.

Article by Marie O'Halloran from www.irishtimes.com / Sunday April 2nd 2017

Chris Horn of Atlantic Bridge Capital – which invested €1.5 million into Kastus last December – with Kastus founder John Browne. The firm has won a Knowledge Transfer Ireland award for its advance against superbugs. Photograph: Shane O’Neill Photography

Chris Horn of Atlantic Bridge Capital – which invested €1.5 million into Kastus last December – with Kastus founder John Browne. The firm has won a Knowledge Transfer Ireland award for its advance against superbugs. Photograph: Shane O’Neill Photography

Fatal superbugs that have contributed to the deaths of patients and to outbreaks in Irish hospitals face a new enemy in the form of an award-winning antimicrobial solution.

DIT Grangegorman start-up company Kastus has won a Knowledge Transfer Ireland award, which recognises the achievements of higher-education institutes and publicly funded research organisations in Ireland.

Kastus has won the award for its solution, which chief executive John Browne says will kill MRSA, Ecoli, fungus associated with athlete’s foot, and CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae).

He maintains it will kill the “dirty dozen” superbugs listed last month by the World Health Organisation (WHO) including three families of bacteria the WHO describes as of critical importance: acinetobacter, pseudomonas and various enterobacteriaceae, which includes CRE.

These can cause bloodstream infections and pneumonia and pose a major risk in hospitals and nursing homes. The WHO list also includes high- and medium-priority drug-resistant bacteria that cause diseases such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.

In negotiations

The solution, patented in the United Kingdom and United States with 15 global patents pending, can be used to protect surfaces like smartphones, door handles, toilets, sinks, ceramic floor and wall tiles, glass, metals, ATMs, TVs, handrails, lifts, fridges, microwaves, as well as plastics and paint.

The company is currently in negotiations with ceramics companies manufacturing sanitary ceramics.

The solution will not however be in cleaning fluids.

“Our technology is factory applied,” said Mr Browne. The coating is sprayed into the product and then baked into it in the manufacturing process, forming a super hard surface which is permanent and transparent. The product – sink, urinal, ATM – is then permanently free from superbugs, he said.

“We’ve put a lot of money into validation in Ireland and in Germany.”

Kastus last October conducted a test in a public building when a microbiologist swabbed door handles, an ATM, toilets, sinks, screens and covers of mobile phones, waste-bin lids and the canteen trays, for bacteria.

“There was MRSA and Ecoli found everywhere,” said Mr Browne. Faecal matter and bacteria such as enterococcus faecium were found on elevator buttons as well as flesh-eating listeria on ATMs and salmonella on computer keyboards. “It was typical of every public building.”

Grim statistics

He continued with the grim statistics: “A smartphone has 30 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. It goes everywhere – the car, the canteen, the bedroom, the bathroom.”

Mr Browne highlights a UK government-commissioned report on AMR (anti-microbial resistance) which estimated that 10 million people could die a year by 2050 and cost the world economy $100 trillion annually. Currently 700,000 people die a year from drug-resistant infections.

In December last year, Kastus received a €1.5 million investment from the Atlantic Bridge University Fund. The company is also supported by Singapore-based investor syndicate Carragh Holdings and by Enterprise Ireland. The firm was involved in a recent Enterprise Ireland trade trip to the Middle East. Kastus is currently taking on more staff.

State must stop superbug’s spread in hospitals, microbiologists warn.

Society of Clinical Microbiologists calls for emergency national CRE outbreak team.

Article from www.irishtimes.com / Tuesday March 28th, 2017, 01:00

More than 2,000 people at Tallaght Hospital have come into contact with CRE since an outbreak there began 18 months ago.

More than 2,000 people at Tallaght Hospital have come into contact with CRE since an outbreak there began 18 months ago.

The State must act quickly to prevent a highly resistant superbug from becoming endemic in the hospital system, a medical group has warned.

The Society of Clinical Microbiologists said urgent action was needed to stem the spread of the CRE superbug, which has been growing increasingly common in Irish hospitals. It called for an emergency national outbreak team with dedicated resources as well as a long-term strategic focus on the problem.

An outbreak of the superbug at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny last month forced the closure of two wards and up to 17 beds. Four patients in the hospital’s surgical ward were infected with the CRE superbug, which has a mortality rate of up to 50 per cent among vulnerable patients. In recent weeks, the first case of “pan-resistant” CRE was reported in the US involving a female patient whose infection was resistant to all 26 antibiotics approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

The president of the Society of Clinical Microbiologists, Dr Eleanor McNamara, told the Medical Independent the superbug represented a “major” patient safety issue and that the window to prevent it becoming endemic in the hospital system was “diminishing rapidly”.

Family of germs

Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. Beds that are found to have been occupied by carriers have to be left empty while the ward is deep-cleaned with hydrogen peroxide.

National data shows the number of cases grew from 48 in 2013 to 81 in 2014 and 140 in 2015. There were 132 cases in the first eight months of last year.

More than 2,000 people at Tallaght Hospital have come into contact with CRE since an outbreak there began 18 months ago. Some 142 patients were found to be carriers. In Limerick, CRE has been associated with 27 deaths over a six-year period.Because of the growing problem posed by CRE, new rules for the recording of cases were introduced this year. All microbiology laboratories have to report to the HSE’s health protection surveillance centre the number of patients infected with the bug, and the first quarterly report on CRE will be published later this year.

To read the original article click here.

 

 

Ground-breaking technology to control superbugs receives award nomination.

Kastus, the anticmicrobial experts, has been shortlisted for a Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Award.

Based in Dublin, the spinout company from DIT and based at The Greenway Hub in Grangegorman, has developed ground-breaking technology to prevent the spread of superbugs.

Kastus was shortlisted for the Spin-out Company Impact Award which recognises companies that have achieved a “successful and significant even” in the previous calander year.

The company’s effective and practical antimicrobial solution kills harmful bacteria and micro-organisms such as MRSA and E. Coli.

The novel and patented technology can be used to protect a range of everyday surfaces – including smartphones, glass, door handles and metals – against the deadly superbugs.

The award nomination has come after Kastus recently launched its life-saving products at Arab Health, the largest healthcare event in the MEMA region.

Kastus CEO John Browne said:

“We’re delighted to be considered for this award for our exciting work on our range of patented products which we are now bringing to global markets. We are very grateful to the team at DIT for their unwavering support in particular Tom Flanagan, Paul Maguire and Brendan Duffy.”

Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) is the national office that helps business to benefit from access to Irish expertise and technology by making it simple to connect and engage with the research base in Ireland.

The KTI Impact Awards recognise and showcase the success in knowledge transfer carried out in Irish Higher Education Institutions and publicly funded research organisations.  They recognise top performance in industry engagement and commercialisation of research.

In 2016, news of Kastus’ breakthrough technology, which will be key to controlling antibiotic-resistant killer superbugs, made world headlines. It can be used on any ceramic, metal, glass, paint and plastic surfaces. http://www.kastus.com

The winners of the KTI awards will be announced at a special ceremony on March 30. http://www.knowledgetransferireland.com


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Martha Kearns at StoryLab on +353 87 2720212.

Flesh-eating bugs lurking on ATMs and killer bacteria found on phones

Article by Eilish O'Regan from www.independent.ie - 27/02/17

Potentially lethal superbugs and faecal matter discovered on host of everyday items.

Deadly superbugs have been found on mobile phones, laptops, ATMs, floors, elevator buttons and toilet door handles.

In recent research at a third-level college, traces of MRSA were found on the hot water dispenser in a public canteen, on toilet doors, waste bin lids and on the screens and covers of mobile phones. 

Faecal matter was also found on toilet door handles, according to the study which was commissioned by antimicrobial experts Kastus.

The survey aimed to isolate and identify bacterial species present in our everyday environments.

Numerous common public areas were selected and swabbed as dozens of harmful bacteria strains were found on everyday surfaces.

The study, which was carried out over a two-week period in October 2016, also found faecal matter and other potentially harmful bacteria on elevator buttons as well as flesh-eating Listeria on ATMs and salmonella on computer keyboards.

Bill Gates warned of a global superbug pandemic. Photo: Reuters

Bill Gates warned of a global superbug pandemic. Photo: Reuters

The MRSA bacteria is harmless in itself, but it can cause life-threatening illness if it gets into the bloodstream through a cut or other incision.

Kastus has developed ground-breaking technology to prevent the spread of superbugs in healthcare and industry in the UK, the US and across the world.

Kastus chief executive John Browne said the findings of the study were absolutely shocking.

He said: "When we set out to fund this research project, we expected to see a certain level of harmful bacteria but what was actually discovered is truly shocking, but we believe this is no different to what we would find in any UK, US or Irish public building.

"These bacteria can make people very sick and can ultimately kill. Recent stories of hospital ward and hotel closures show the extent of the problem. Institutions need to be made aware of the risks associated with these bacteria and to start taking responsibility for their occupant health and wellbeing.

"The risks which superbugs present are massive. It is predicted that superbugs will kill 10 million people worldwide by 2050."

Speaking recently, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned of a worldwide superbug pandemic. 

Mr Gates has campaigned for wealthier countries to help the Third World fight disease. 

Mr Browne said that modern environments people live in made it easier for superbugs to thrive.

He added: "Our technologies are vitally important in a world where antibiotic resistance to harmful bacteria is a threat as significant as global warming. 

"By working with manufacturers, we can start to make our indoor environments work for us by having contact surfaces kill bacteria rather than spread them.

"As humans, we create warm, humid environments for our own comfort and the increased use of smartphones and other high-touch surfaces, combined with relaxed cleaning regimes have created ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to survive and thrive. 

"Kastus will be performing further microbiological research in the coming year to include healthcare, gymnasia and hotels and hope that, by educating the public, we can ensure that important technologies like ours become a standard in making the world a safer place."

 

Kastus launches superbug-killing products on trade visit to UAE

Irish start-up is one of 20 Enterprise Ireland client firms at Arab Health show in Dubai

Article by Charlie Taylor from www.irishtimes.com

It is estimated that superbugs such as MRSA and E. coli could kill 10 million people worldwide by 2050

It is estimated that superbugs such as MRSA and E. coli could kill 10 million people worldwide by 2050

Irish start-up Kastus Technologies, which recently secured €1.5 million in investment through the Atlantic Bridge University Fund, has launched two new revolutionary superbug-killing products at the Arab Health event in Dubai.

The company is in Dubai as part of Enterprise Ireland’s trade mission to the healthcare exhibition, which last year attracted over 130,000 visitors from 163 countries.

Kastus, which early last year announced it would commercialise research that had yielded a significant discovery to help in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs, has launched Log4+ and Kastus Metal.

Log4+ is an antimicrobial coating that can be used on ceramic or glass surfaces to protect against superbugs such as MRSA and E.coli while Kastus Metal is a coating for metal surfaces including steel and aluminium.

Superbugs are forecast to kill 10 million people worldwide by 2050.

Kastus, which was founded by chief executive John Browne, is based at the Greenway Hub at DIT Grangegorman.

‘Ideal opportunity’

“The uniqueness of antimicrobial surface treatment means that real-world applications are endless with global commercial appeal. It is very exciting to today launch the first in a range of patented products which we plan to bring to global markets,” said Mr Browne.

Kastus is close to selling into both the US and UK markets and are currently working with a number of companies in the electronics and healthcare sectors on collaborative trials in both markets. The startup is also working to finalise approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We have already achieved excellent results in trials with several international customers who have been searching for such a solution for years. The plan is to supply customers in the electronics and healthcare sectors in 2017,” he added.

Kastus is one of 20 Enterprise Ireland client companies that are attending the exhibition and conference, which has become a strategically important event for companies looking to build market presence in the region.

€1.5m investment in Irish company behind breakthrough formula to control superbugs

  • Atlantic Bridge University Fund leads €1.5m investment

  • Kastus commercialising life-saving products that kill harmful antibiotic-resistant bacteria

John-Browne-and-Chris-Horn.jpg

Irish technology firm Kastus made world headlines earlier this year with the news that it had unlocked a scientific discovery, which will be key to controlling antibiotic-resistant killer superbugs.

On December 1st the company announced a €1.5m investment led by the Atlantic Bridge University Fund, which invests in companies built from world-class research.

This funding, from a major international investment firm, ensures Kastus will continue to be well-capitalised as it scales internationally and will be used to grow the company’s customer base.

Superbugs are predicted to kill 10 million people worldwide every year by 2050. In a leading report by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies, it was warned that the danger of antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance “should be ranked alongside climate change on a list of threats to the nation”.

Addressing this problem, Kastus' effective and practical antimicrobial solution is a unique agent that kills micro-organisms or inhibits their growth.

The novel and patented technology can be used to protect a range of everyday surfaces against deadly bacteria, including MRSA and E.coli on smartphones, computer screens, mobile devices andother paint, plastic, ceramic and glass surfaces.

Founder and CEO of the company John Browne has commercialised and funded research led scientists at Dublin Institute of Technology’s (DIT) Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology developed over the past ten years.

He is now leading the company to bring a range of patented products to global markets. Kastus is also supported by Enterprise Ireland, Singapore based investor syndicate, Carragh Holdings and by with strategic business planning from Dick Blake at Pembroke Consultants.

John Browne, Kastus CEO said: “The uniqueness of antimicrobial surface treatment means that real world applications are endless with global commercial appeal. We have already achieved excellent results in trials with several international customers who have been searching for such a solution for years. The plan is supply customers in the electronics and healthcare sectors in 2017.

“This investment from Atlantic Bridge’s University Fund is strong validation that Kastus' scientific research has great potential to be commercialised into international markets. To have the backing of Atlantic Bridge is an incredible endorsement for the future.”  “Atlantic Bridge brings significant expertise of scaling global companies from Europe in the US and in China, which are key markets for Kastus as we target client companies in the consumer electronics and other markets. The global Atlantic Bridge platform is the perfect fit to help Kastus scale rapidly and position us a market leader in our sector.”

Chris Horn at Atlantic Bridge said: “Atlantic Bridge is delighted to welcome Kastus to our growing portfolio of early-stage companies in the University Fund. The company strongly represents the commercial strength of world-class academic research undertaken in Ireland, and illustrates how the University Fund can accelerate the global growth of such opportunities.” 

Kastus has also this week moved into new offices, complete with a state-of- the-art laboratory and research facilities at the Greenway Hub on DIT’s Grangegorman campus. With the support of Atlantic Bridge and Enterprise Ireland, the company will also establish a permanent presence in the US and UK markets.

Orla Battersby, Manager of High Potential Start-Ups, Enterprise Ireland, said that a key focus for Enterprise Ireland was helping companies to start-up, innovate and scale in international markets.

“We have worked closely with Kastus from the very beginning and it is extremely encouraging to see the great strides they are making. Kastus is a great example of a highly innovative Irish company with the drive and ambition to succeed globally. Enterprise Ireland’s teams in Ireland and overseas will continue to work closely with Kastus, supporting them to scale their business in international markets,” said Ms Battersby.

 

More good news from Kastus.

The good news continues to flow from Kastus and we are pleased to announce the following.    

PATENTS & IP

We are pleased to announce that EU and USA patents were granted for our Log4+® antimicrobial solution, and this provides the essential IP safeguards for Kastus and its customers to exploit this exciting new technology. Additional patents are pending in several other countries including Japan, China, Korea, Europe etc. and we expect these to go to grant in the near future. Our intention is to file additional patents for several of our independent claims arising from the already granted patents and thereby further tighten the ring fence around our IP.         (Information on granted patents is available upon request.)

TRADEMARKS

Kastus has already registered Log4+® as a trademark and this will be followed by additional trademarks in the near future.

MEDIA EXPOSURE

Following from the granting of the EU and USA patents, Kastus has received extensive media reporting on its Log4+® antimicrobial solution, with articles published in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, The Guardian and various other newspapers and online publications. This was followed up by TV reports about the benefits of the Kastus technology. Following from this media exposure, Kastus has received numerous enquiries from potential customers/users and from potential investors.

FINANCIAL

Kastus has been able to exploit the strong interest in the commercial potential of its Log4+® antimicrobial solution and is currently facilitating investors who wish to benefit from the prospective growth of the company. The first round of funds will be invested in the company in the coming weeks which will enable the company to set up full scale production and commercialization of its Log4+® antimicrobial solution and file additional patents, etc. Given the current demand from investors, the company is unlikely to need any additional external funding.       

Kastus is now in a position to commercialize Log4+® AMS by offering to supply it to prospective customers in the form of a liquid solution or by way of licensing. Interested parties should contact John Brown via our website www.kastus.com