Current global outbreak of COVID-19 is disrupting almost everyone's daily life. Virus inactivation prior to contact is an effective strategy for personal protection. Recently, DICP researchers successfully developed new catalytic materials exhibiting a direct capability of adsorbing and inactivating the COVID-19 virus, with an exceptionally high sterilization efficiency of 96.5%-99.9%, tested by the Anhui Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Anhui CDC). The tested concentration of COVID-19 virus was 5 μg/mL, far exceeding the viral pathogenic concentration in real scenarios. These solid catalytic materials are non-toxic and insoluble in water or organic solvents. They can be coated on various supports or easily made into different particle shapes. These materials are envisioned to have wide applications on anti-epidemic products and air/water purification products to improve the protection performance by efficient viral adsorption and inactivation.
Animal viruses usually contain a genomic nucleic acid, a protein capsid that covers the genome, and a lipid envelope. Those biomacromolecules, from a chemist's point of view, are less stable comparing to small organic molecules and susceptible to hydrolysis and oxidation. Solid catalytic materials can usually be designed with unique properties, such as adsorption, acidity or basicity, oxidation or reduction. Given the desired property, the concept of virus adsorption and inactivation by these solid catalytic materials is feasible.
The idea of using the adsorption and catalysis principle to sterilize pathogens was first raised by DICP researchers at the beginning of 2003 during the outbreak of SARS. DICP gathered experts on catalysis and bio-analysis, and allied with specialists from virus laboratory of Dalian Medical University. With interdisciplinary expertise, the team conducted systematic study on the design, synthesis, screening, cytotoxicity tests, and sterilization capacity of catalytic materials. Hundreds of inorganic porous materials were synthesized in short time, and the outperformed samples were selected after Parainfluenza virus inactivation tests. The selected materials exhibited direct adsorption and inactivation capacity on SARS virus tested by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences of China afterwards. The general applicability of these materials for virus inactivation were further demonstrated by Dalian Medical University to confirm the significant inhibitory effect for HADV-I, HADV-V and HHV-I viruses, etc. The results have been partially published in the Chinese Journal of Catalysis (24(5), 323-327,2003), Chinese Journal of Chromatography (21(3), 222-225, 2003) and Virologica Sinica (20(1), 70-74, 2005).
Given the genomic and virological similarity between the COVID-19 virus and 2003 SARS virus, DICP researchers immediately resumed the project carried out 17 years ago since the outbreak of COVID-19. This time, the interdisciplinary research team focuses on the scale-up process development and the mechanistic study on COVID-19 virus inactivation via technical upgrades. At present, the scale-up process for the catalytic material synthesis has been developed and validated, and is ready for commercial production.
The research team also carried out the application development of such catalytic materials for the purpose of air purification, personal protection, and other different scenarios. The supporting and molding technology as well as the process development on honeycomb, metal mesh, and non-woven structural carriers have been demonstrated. The research team from DICP is working with partners to deploy such materials into industrial production and daily-life applications soon.
This research has been supported by Headquarter of S&T Development for Prevention and Control of COVID-19 of Clinical Research Hospital (Hefei) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, Dalian Medical University.