Huge discovery in COVID battle
Okanagan Edge Staff - Nov 23, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

A UBCO researcher has received a prestigious award after finding a better way to fight the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Seyyedarash Haddadi, a post-doctoral fellow at UBCO, received the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization for his work on an antimicrobial fabric coating that can be applied to face masks.

The award is being presented today (Nov. 23) during a hybrid ceremony held both online and in person at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Dr. Haddadi was working on anticorrosion coatings when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, so he pivoted his research to virus prevention. He ended up inventing a novel compound that, when applied to a mask, reduces transmission of active pathogens by more than 99.99 per cent, including COVID-19 viral particles and bacteria. It recently received Health Canada approval and is being incorporated into millions of face masks for sale worldwide.

Photo: Contributed

“The final product is made from a silver-coated graphene oxide sheet, less than one nanometer in thickness, that we disperse in water and then spray on the surface of fabrics,” Dr. Haddadi said. “When we apply it to an average four-ply face mask, we coat the inner layer so that nothing is on the exterior of the mask.”

No solvents or toxic chemicals are added to the compound, which means it is an odourless coating that is safe for humans.

Dr. Haddadi worked with industrial partner Zentek and Dr. Colin van der Kuur in a Guelph, Ont.-based lab to create the compound, which commercially is known as ZenGuard. Zentek recently made its first ZenGuard sale, to a Collingwood, Ont., company that will soon be launching what it calls a four-ply mask.

“Mitacs helped me commercialize my research in two important ways,” he said. “First, as a graduate from university in Iran, Mitacs introduced me to research and industry in Canada, and secondly, the stipend Mitacs provided enabled me to focus on my research and discovery so I didn’t have to find a second job and could focus on developing my research.”

Dr. Haddadi is one of eight Mitacs national award winners, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in the company’s programs each year.

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