U of Guelph Researcher Earns Award for Invention to combat Coronavirus
Guelph, ONTARIO — Amid the challenges of a global pandemic and growing concern over spread of COVID-19, an up-and-coming researcher at University of Guelph is being recognized for her innovative work to quickly pivot a decontamination unit originally designed for fresh produce into what may soon be a tool every home can use to sanitize household items against the coronavirus and other germs.
The breakthrough work has earned Mahdiyeh Hasani the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization, awarded by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. The award will be presented at a virtual ceremony taking place on November 24.
Hasani — a postdoctoral fellow studying under Professor Keith Warriner in the Department of Food Safety at University of Guelph — is being recognized for developing a rapid waterless decontamination unit that generates antimicrobials by using a combination of natural UV light, hydrogen peroxide and ozone. Originally designed to quickly and effectively clean fresh produce, the technology, marketed by Beamsville, Ontario-based Clean Works Corp as the Clean Flow system, was successfully adapted by Hasani to sanitize N95 respirators at the start of the pandemic and is now being applied to a whole host of different surfaces.
“I never imagined that this technology would advance this far, this quickly,” said Hasani, who re-engineered the process to make it more effective and versatile. “We’re essentially replicating a reaction that occurs in nature, and optimizing it to provide solutions for both industrial and general use.”
While other researchers were going into lockdown, Hasani stepped up her efforts to meet the need for decontamination technologies to fight COVID-19. Hasani was instrumental in reconfiguring the Clean Flow system and identifying the operating parameters to decontaminate N95 masks. This research was passed onto the Clean Works team — led by co-owners Mark VanderVeen and Paul Moyer — who then built a commercial unit within three weeks. Her innovative work prepared the way for the company to diversify and establish a new branch, called Clean Works Medical, to sell the N95 mask decontamination units — which are Health Canada approved and currently awaiting FDA approval in the U.S. — to healthcare organizations.
Manufacturer Sees Wide Use Of Latest Innovation
As the company expands into new sectors, it continues to partner with Hasani and the University of Guelph team of researchers to further develop the groundbreaking technology. The goal is to provide mini sanitization units to long-term care homes, day cares, hospitals, airports, retail businesses, schools and households. The technology has already been shown to work on gowns, goggles, reusable grocery bags, phones, keyboards, toys, shoes and luggage, Hasani said.
“People remain extremely concerned about the spread of the virus and other germs,” said Hasani, who hopes to have the domestic version, based using LED technology ready for approval next year. “This is a perfect example of how ideas in the lab can be transitioned to commercial processes and make a big difference in everyday life.”
The Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization is presented to a Mitacs intern for an idea brought from research that is now available on the market or has strong support that it is soon to be commercialized. Hasani is one of eight Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year. The remaining seven recipients were recognized for outstanding innovation or exceptional leadership in other areas of research.
In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn said Canada benefits from innovation derived from strategic partnership between industry, government and academia, ultimately helping to retain top talent on our home turf and spurring economic recovery.
“Whether our researchers study abroad and bring their expertise back to Canada, or develop groundbreaking ideas by tapping into resources across our country, their breakthrough work is changing the way we live and work,” Hepburn said. “Mitacs is honoured to play a role in supporting this important research and helping to advance innovation for the benefit of Canadians.”
For more information about the Mitacs awards and a full list of winners, visit the link below.
Below: Mahdiyeh Hasani with the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization
· Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon.