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Professor aims to disinfect surfaces

William Wuest says his proposed cleaner is 10 to 100 times more potent.

A Temple chemistry professor is part of a research project developing a non-toxic disinfectant 10 to 100 times more effective than that of current leading brands.

Dr. William M. Wuest’s proposed product – which he said would cost less to produce than other disinfectants like Lysol – can be cost-effective for health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes, and could potentially deal with bacteria that have become resistant to cleaning products after excessive use.

When he joined the chemistry department in 2011, Wuest was given a university start-up grant to initiate the research. He has since partnered with Dr. Kevin Minbiole, a Villanova University chemistry professor, and the team was recently recognized with grants that can assist in taking the cleaner to the market.

Last month, the University City Science Center awarded an initial grant of $100,000 marking the team as one of four from 68 candidates to receive this grant in the Philadelphia region.Temple will also aid the research by matching this amount with a $100,000 grant.

“Some of that money is going to [Minbiole] to work on his end, some’s going to a small company to test our compounds, and the rest is staying here, where my students will be working on testing the compounds up at the medical school,” Wuest said.

Minbiole could not be reached for comment.

The team also plans on petitioning a request for a grant from the National Institutes of Health to further finance the tests.

The search among hundreds of compounds to battle bacteria that are immune to cleaners began about a year and a half ago when the team applied a compound research to biofilms, where invulnerable bacteria find refuge, Wuest said.

“We applied this [compound research] and saw this worked better than anything that’s ever been discovered,” Wuest said. “[We] started realizing that our compounds are very similar to Lysol, and started looking at tackling some of the claims Lysol makes.”

Graduate students at Villanova and Temple have also taken part in the lab and have written papers on the development.

Wuest said the chemical structure of his compound makes it more effective. While Lysol disinfectant has one “warhead” – a molecular component that kills bacteria – and a positive charge of one, Wuest’s proposed disinfectant has triple the charge and two “warheads.” Though their structures are similar, Wuest said the disinfectant is different enough to claim patent rights to and have easy access to maneuver.

Before it can launch in the next one to two years, the compound needs to be tested for production, along with a series of Environmental Protection Agency testings.

“We are pretty close, it’s just a matter of now doing the dirty work of coming up with a formulation and being able to put it on a wiper, put it in a bottle, seeing how effective it is … and then seeing how it compares to what’s already in the market,” Wuest said.

He’s also talked about his product in schools  around the region like Haverford, Drexel and Lehigh University.

There is not yet a set price to be put in place and a definite name has yet to be decided, Wuest said. He added that the team hopes to produce other forms of the product in the future.

Maryvic Perez can be reached at maryvic.perez@temple.edu

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