PI: Frank Zhang

Co-PI(s): Xuanhong Cheng and Himanshu Jain

University: Lehigh University

Enveloped viruses have caused serious public health crises, including the current pandemic, the previous MERS and SARS outbreaks, and the annual common cold and flu. Spreading of any of enveloped viruses can be readily prevented by destroying their lipid layer envelope. The overall spreading mode of most enveloped viruses begins with droplets produced by an infected person. The droplets may be transmitted directly through the air or indirectly via deposition on inanimate surfaces, followed by transfer from the surface to others. Our strategy is to intervene in the latter process by chemically functionalizing commonly encountered surfaces, which will actively incapacitate the virus for further transmission. The potential benefits of such technology are enormous, fully aligning with the goals of the PITA program with direct benefits to healthcare facilities and public places frequented by multiple persons.

The enveloped viruses can persist on surfaces for several days while remaining viable and infectious. Currently approved disinfectants against the SARS-CoV-2 and other public health pathogens are not required to demonstrate efficacy beyond the time of application. Therefore, surfaces and high-touch areas in particular are vulnerable to recontamination with microorganisms in between regular cleaning and disinfection, requiring re-application of a disinfectant after each contamination or exposure event, which is often impractical. Consequently, there is an urgent need for more efficient and practical disinfecting products that can meet real-life challenges of wear and tear, often associated with exposure and recontamination with microorganisms.

Through support from PA-COVID Challenge, this Lehigh-Solvay team has established a laboratory facility and demonstrated the virucidal effect of one of anti-bacterial Solvay products with just five-minute exposure. Encouraged by these results, the Lehigh team proposes to establish virucidal efficacy of this and other formulations over extended duration, which will help establish a far more beneficial product than is available in the market today.