Continuing with our work to demystify the work that goes on at M-SParc, we spoke with Lucy Hope about Virustatic Shield LTD, a company that has shot into the limelight during COVID-19.

Virustatic Limited use protein science to offer a range of innovative solutions, developed from naturally occurring proteins. These natural proteins have always formed a vital part of the human immune system and we have spent a decade developing methods to employ them in a variety of ways to enable society and individuals to respond to – and overcome - viral and bacterial threats without the need for harmful chemicals.

Virustatic Limited is using this protein science to develop preventive and curative treatments for pandemic illnesses, such as influenza and other respiratory infections, through to new and enhanced forms of fuel efficiency, sustainable and non-infective food packaging and innovative building materials and processes.

Virustatic Limited was established in 2009 when our founder, Paul Hope, became increasingly aware that there were limitations with regards to our preparedness for an inevitable pandemic. Much of the PPE available had known limitations and was not designed with respiratory disease prevention in mind. He started his research on protein coated substrates that would effectively ‘trap’ viruses on their surface, whilst using materials that avoid the inherent problems associated with PPE: breathability, comfort, the need-for fit-testing for them to be effective against airborne viruses. His research culminated in the development of the Virustatic Shield face covering, commericalised through Virustatic Shield Ltd!

Virustatic Ltd operates a truly blue-sky thinking approach to innovation demonstrated with a strategic intent to patent ground-breaking science. We do everything differently, and proudly so, and this is in ingrained in our company culture.

After the launch of the Virsutatic Shield face covering at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is apparent that our regulatory systems and society are still reliant on established 20th Century responses to the challenges we face. Manufacturers around the world are producing billions of single use 3-ply masks every single month which are made out plastic non-woven material and are not effective against airborne respiratory viruses (and were not designed to be).

Or, otherwise, manufacturers are using outmoded technology which sees metals woven within textiles. Not only is there growing evidence that this technology is extremely environmentally noxious, but many have raised concerns for human health when they are used next to the mouth and nose. Other countries are looking to ban the use of metals in textiles.

So, not only are the alternatives inadequate, but they are economically and environmentally damaging to the overall well-being of the population and to the planet itself.

Our founder, Paul Hope, always creates solutions by addressing problems from a completely different perspective. Challenging the norm and status quo is core to the Virustatic Ltd business ethos and drives our approach to next generation innovation. Paul lobbied the UK and US Governments for a decade, trying to raise awareness of this pioneering protein technology. It is only the with the arrival of COVID-19 that the market became open to understanding and people began recognising the need for alternative responses to pandemic threat.

Benefits of M-SParc
The benefit of having our HQ at M-SParc is not only the state-of-the-art facilities and stunning views of Snowdonia - which are uniquely inspiring - but also being part of the network of all that is supportive within innovation and development in Wales. Choosing a science park such as M-SParc means you are never far away from other likeminded people with intellectual agility and it is easy to feed off the buzz of your environment.

It is also a good choice due to the proximity and ease of access to the excellent academic links in Wales. We are now a BEACON project and we are working on an exciting venture with the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University. Both of these projects in North Wales are aligned to us as a company as they are committed to developing biobased alternatives to synthetics and harmful chemicals as well as trying to encourage a ‘circular’ approach to the planet and its precious resources. This is important to us as a company with environmental sustainability at the top of our agenda.

In a 21st Century global environment, where the pace of change is constantly accelerating, new threats and new environmental challenges will emerge with increasing frequency. Being at M-SParc has given us connections to organisations such as the Life Sciences Hub Wales, Accelerate, BIC Innovation and CALIN who are extraordinarily supportive and active in the ways they are supporting us in our vision to do things differently in response to these challenges and threats.

What next?
The Virustatic Shield face covering was launched in March 2020 as a standard product in ‘natural white’ only. However, we have been researching dyes that not only work in synergy with our anti-viral treatment but have a minimal environmental impact, given dyeing is such an environmentally costly process. We are so pleased to confirm that we are at the final stages of development of the Virustatic Shield in a range of colours.

As a company, Virustatic Limited hosts an expanding range of scientific research, development and ecologically respectful market-facing solutions that address different facets of 21st Century challenges. Our next big project is working with Welsh institutions to bring a preventative and curative COVID and influenza inhaler, based on our protein science, through to clinical trials. It is no exaggeration to say that it has the potential to have a massive global impact and provide an alternative to a vaccine.

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