Many bacteria are harmless, but the harmful ones can cost us dearly. Microbes such as the ‘superbugs’ MRSA and virulent strains of E. coli pose a chronic problem in healthcare settings, where they cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in vulnerable patients. These sturdy bugs can live on surfaces such as countertops, walls, ATMs and even mobile phones and tablet screens, and can thus spread from place to place as people touch those surfaces. Such superbugs are currently predicted to kill 10 million people worldwide every year by 2050.

The innovation is a new anti-microbial technology that can be integrated into surfaces. It was originally developed by the Research Team in the Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST) of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and can be integrated invisibly into glass, plastics, ceramics, paints and metal. Its anti-microbial properties are activated by indoor light, it kills a broad spectrum of microbes and it generates no toxic byproducts.

When the light-activated anti-microbial technology was put through its paces, it was found to render surfaces 99.99 per cent resistant to E. coli, MRSA and species of fungi. Kastus spun out of DIT to further develop and commercialise the technology, and in late 2016 the company announced a €1.5m investment led by the Atlantic Bridge University Fund, which invests in companies built from world-class research. Kastus is also supported by Enterprise Ireland, Carragh Holdings (Singapore based investor syndicate) and Dick Blake, CEO of Pembroke Consultants. The company has already achieved excellent results in trials with several international customers who have been searching for such a solution for years, and it initially plans to supply customers in the electronics and healthcare sectors.

DIT Hothouse identified and protected the new antimicrobial technology and the intellectual property behind it. It also found and enabled suitable researchers in DIT to collaborate with Kastus, and facilitated introductions to investors. DIT Hothouse won the 2017 Knowledge Transfer Ireland Spin-out Company Impact Award for Kastus, the company is based in the DIT Hothouse Incubator in the Greenway Hub on DIT’s Grangegorman Campus.