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.