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Germs, Interrupted: Disinfection Innovation Goes Global

A New York-based startup is about to commercialize the first true innovation in disinfection since Louis Pasteur. The startup, Halomine Inc, was founded by Mingyu Qiao and Ted Eveleth, and their first product, HaloFilm™, extends the lifetime of bleach on surfaces from minutes to weeks. At the start of the pandemic, we at IndieBio were really happy to welcome them to our inaugural IndieBio New York cohort; now that they are on the verge of commercializing, we’re even more pleased to support a company that will have huge impacts on human health.

Disinfection innovation is now going global: Halomine recently announced a strategic alliance with Diversey, a leading global provider of hygiene, infection prevention, and cleaning solutions, who will adopt HaloFilm™ technology for institutional and food and beverage markets.

No doubt, this partnership offers a significant opportunity for both Halomine and Diversey: the global surface disinfectant market size was valued at $4.54B in 2020. But the bigger opportunity is the improved human health this partnership represents: HaloFilm’s efficacy against drug-resistant fungi such as Candida auris means this technology can prevent deadly hospital outbreaks.

HaloFilm™ also extends surface disinfection against bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. When the Halomine team pitched to IndieBio New York, the COVID-19 pandemic was only beginning, and the team saw a benefit for a long-acting antiviral disinfectant (data hadn’t yet shown that surface transmission is relatively minimal). SOSV invested in many companies battling the pandemic, including Halomine, but Halomine’s technology was also a long-term investment with applications in many sectors.

What sectors? Think of food preparation: industrial kitchens and food processing premises can be sources of foodborne illness. Conveyor belts can be coated with biofilms, hard-to-eradicate bacterial growth, where pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes lurk. Technologies that kill pathogens on contact will prohibit biofilm growth, preventing some estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year. Given that the food processing and handling sector is predicted to exceed $4 trillion by 2024, this technology offers both the chance to improve human health and make significant revenues.

Innovating the disinfection process

The process of disinfection hasn’t changed in 150 years. Why should it? Bleach is a very efficient disinfectant. But consider that 15 minutes after cleaning a surface with bleach, the bleach disappears, and a surface can be recolonized by nearby microorganisms. Now ask yourself: how often are surfaces cleaned with disinfectants? 

HaloFilm™ is a simple spray that is applied before any bleach-based cleaning solution. This creates a thin-layer film that holds bleach molecules close to the surface, ready to attack any microbes that land in the crevices and valleys that constitute smooth surfaces at a microscopic level. The film is harmless to human touch (“as safe as the water in a swimming pool,” as Eveleth likes to say), and the film can be “recharged” with fresh bleach applications to maintain disinfection.

The New York Story

Most of the Candida auris cases in the United States have occurred in New York, which may be why the solution was New York-based as well. Ted Eveleth, CEO of Halomine, joined the company in 2019 with this antifungal application in mind. Then came COVID19. 

Eveleth and co-founder & CTO Mingyu Qiao, Ph.D., met in Ithaca, NY, where Qiao worked on the technology at Cornell University. They licensed the technology and joined the first IndieBio NY program in May 2020 at the beginning of the U.S. COVID19 outbreak. Halomine immediately pivoted to working on coronaviruses, and the IndieBio team celebrated with Halomine when HaloFilm™ was shown to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 using the rigorous CDC rapid surface test for COVID. 

The key connection between Halomine and Diversey was made during the IndieBio NY program. Qiao, encouraged by the IndieBio team to make numerous cold calls, reached out via LinkedIn to the CTO at Diversey pitching Halomine’s latest antiviral data—and the rest, as they say, is history.      

From Local to Global

Controlling infectious disease is a global problem, of course, which is why this partnership is a boon for human health. Partnering with a worldwide company like Diversey means that Halomine will be able to see their technology applied around the world for many uses. The company has specialties in healthcare, facility management, food & beverage, hospitality, and retail spaces, allowing HaloFilm™ to move quickly into the markets where it is most needed.

We are excited to see this technology accelerated into its needed applications. Congratulations to Halomine and Diversey on your partnership!