Pandemic Boosts Business for Antimicrobial Innovation

This article originally published on:  Thursday, October 29th, 2020
Written By: Kylie Veleta, Business of Health Reporter & Special Projects Editor – Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick  

WEST LAFAYETTE and NEW ALBANY – It won’t be long until Americans see antimicrobial tray tables on their flights, antimicrobial seats at sports stadiums and antimicrobial features in their car’s interior—and it all centers on a technology invented at Purdue University, commercialized in southeast Indiana and soon manufactured there as well. The germ-killing molecular technology, called Nouvex, can be embedded in a long list of end products to make them antimicrobial, and the pandemic has created a tsunami-sized wave of interest that a small Hoosier startup is riding to the marketplace.

 “Nouvex is right on the edge of exploding in terms of business development, and we’re excited about where it’s headed,” says Paul Moses, a Poly Group LLC board member.
Based in the Purdue Research Park of Southeast Indiana, Poly Group is commercializing Nouvex and recently inked its first commercial manufacturing agreement with another Indiana company, Madison-based Royer Corp. The technology, which Moses says is on the doorstep of multiple commercial deals, was first discovered in Dr. Jeffrey Youngblood’s lab at Purdue. The materials engineering professor describes it as a polymer that can be added to other materials, such as plastic, to kill bacteria and deactivate viruses when they simply come into contact with the surface of the object.
“But at the same time, it doesn’t kill you,” laughs Youngblood. “That’s a very important distinction; there are a lot of things that kill bacteria, but a lot of them kill you too.”
Nouvex wages war against germs at a microscopic level. The polymer molecule has thousands of “side chains” that Youngblood likens to “knives or pins.” When bacteria land on a Nouvex-infused object’s surface, for example, the polymer’s thousands of “pins” attack the wall of the bacterial cell, popping it much like a balloon, explains Youngblood. He says the class of polymers has been known in literature for years, “but they weren’t very good for people,” so his lab moderated the discovery by adding a different molecule that’s biocompatible.
“Usually, when you dilute the active ingredient of something, it makes it less active; what happened instead is, it became biocompatible and more active. Hence, Nouvex was born,” says Youngblood. “It was so drastic that we had trouble believing how good it was at first, because it was like nothing else we’d seen in terms of activity in killing bacteria—and nasty bacteria too: pathogenic bacteria, drug-resistant bacteria, all types of stuff.”
Poly Group licensed the technology in 2010 and has taken Nouvex through the regulatory process; it’s now registered as an antimicrobial preservative with the Environmental Protection Agency. While interest has steadily grown throughout the years, the pandemic caused a huge spike in business development and sparked Nouvex’s first commercial deal. Royer will soon begin manufacturing custom injection-molded plastic products embedded with Nouvex.
“I think you’ll quickly see the integration of Nouvex in injection-molded plastics in the airline, entertainment and hospitality industries. We can’t be more specific right now, because we’re under nondisclosure agreements. I think you’ll definitely see it in the automotive manufacturing world,” says Moses. “We also have other companies that are in the process of taking Nouvex to market, including one that’s working on a urinary catheter…a company that’s working on it in vinyl, like seat covers and cushions, and we have a major steel manufacturer that wants to potentially coat its thin gauge steel with Nouvex. We could go on and on.”

 Poly Group leaders expect an even bigger surge in business pending test results evaluating Nouvex’s ability to kill the novel coronavirus; early results are positive, and Moses says the full report “should come any day now.” Nouvex has been proven effective against other coronaviruses, MRSA, Salmonella and E. coli.
Poly Group co-founder and board member Doug Hamilton says several of the pending commercial agreements are with Indiana companies, which is an intentional effort, “because we want to benefit the Indiana economy when Nouvex comes to market.” And the scientist who discovered Nouvex acknowledges, without Poly Group’s business acumen, it would have “been one of those cool innovations that sat on a shelf.”
“It’s always been a goal of mine to go into Walmart and pick up something, and 18 ingredients deep there’s a word you can’t pronounce,” says Youngblood. “And I can say, ‘That’s my innovation, and it’s helping people.’”
“We’ve seen a lot of tragedy since the emergence of COVID-19. Once we get the novel coronavirus on our registration and get it fully into market, provided the data all comes back as we think it will, I think it’s going to ultimately save lives and make our world a safer place,” says Moses. “It will be something all of us, as Hoosiers, will be proud to say started here.”

Poly Group Partners for New Antimicrobial Material Options

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Royer Corp. and Poly Group LLC finalized an exclusive partnership June 22 that results in the manufacture of antimicrobial custom plastic injection molded parts in Madison, Indiana.

Nouvex antimicrobial technology was discovered at Purdue University by a group led by Jeffrey Youngblood, a professor in Purdue’s School of Materials Engineering.  Poly Group LLC holds an exclusive, worldwide license to the IP covering Nouvex, which includes a granted U.S. patent.

“It is rewarding to see our technology go to the market and help make a difference, particularly during this worldwide pandemic,” Youngblood said.

Royer Corp., a Madison-based manufacturer, serves a variety of industries that will benefit from an antimicrobial option – especially given the new safety challenges businesses are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Royer will infuse Nouvex material in a variety of custom injection molded applications such as airline and mass transit interior parts, food service and hospitality components/disposables, cosmetic applicators, housewares and commercial product pieces.

“Given our company’s unique injection molding capabilities, virtually any custom plastic product can be made in antimicrobial material,” said Roger Williams, CEO of Royer.

The antimicrobial technology marketed as Nouvex has been licensed exclusively and globally to Poly Group by the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

The office is now housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus.

About Poly Group LLC

Poly Group LLC is located in the Purdue Research Park in New Albany, Indiana. The antimicrobial technology marketed as Nouvex has been licensed exclusively and globally to Poly Group by the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. Poly Group has successfully registered Nouvex with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as a material preservative; EPA Reg. No. 91413-2.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2019, the office reported 136 deals finalized with 231 technologies signed, 380 disclosures received and 141 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University.

Contact Poly Group LLC

For more information on the science behind Nouvex and ways you can help bring this solution to market faster, contact Craig Kalmer, Chief Operating Officer, Poly Group LLC at (812) 590-4750.

Image Credit

Cover image courtesy of Royer Corporation.