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QIMR Berghofer partners with MedAir Australia to test SARS-CoV-2 aerosol removal technology

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has entered into a collaborative R&D agreement with Australian start-up company, MedAir Australia, to test a novel air-sterilisation device that is designed to eliminate infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus aerosols from the air.

QIMR Berghofer and MedAir Australia have also filed a joint provisional Australian patent for the device.

Although the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is via droplets, aerosols (very small droplets suspended in the air) are thought to also contribute to the spread of the disease – especially in settings where high levels of aerosols are generated and where ventilation is poor.

Director of MedAir Australia, Dr Karl Lijun Qin, said the air sterilisation device uses a special charging and discharging mechanism to remove infectious aerosols as they pass through it.

“The research provides clear proof-of-principle for the effectiveness of this technology, and we are now in the process of commercialisation, with the hope that this Australian invention can help reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in enclosed spaces,” Dr Qin said.

The prototype device was tested at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s state-of-the-art SARS-CoV-2 Biosafety Level 3 containment facility (PC3 Laboratory) in Queensland. The facility is one of the few laboratories in Australia that is equipped and certified to work with SARS-CoV-2.

QIMR Berghofer virologist and the head of the Institute’s Inflammation Biology group, Professor Andreas Suhrbier, led a team to set up the SARS-CoV-2 PC3 facility.

He said the team’s evaluation showed the prototype device could substantially eliminate infectious aerosols containing SARS-CoV-2 under various conditions in the laboratory.

“The primary reason for setting up this PC3 facility was to provide an Australian-based evaluation facility that could be used to identify promising interventions that could advance the fight against COVID-19 and accelerate them through to the next stage of development,” Professor Suhrbier said.

“We are grateful to Queensland Health for supplying fully characterised virus for us to use.

“The facility is running a series of academic research collaborations, and is also being made available to Australian and international companies under industry-funded collaborative R&D arrangements.”

Co-Inventor of the technology, Dr Hua Fan, said the prototype device had demonstrated stunning efficacy of removing not only up to 100 per cent of infectious aerosols containing SARS-CoV-2, but also another type of virus.

“We envisage that this technology could be used in a variety of situations where aerosol transmission represents a risk, such as in hospital COVID-19 wards or airline cabins,” Dr Hua said.

“Given the low weight and relatively low energy requirement, we might also envisage versions of this technology providing personal protection as a portable wearable device.”