Phillip Demokritou was recently funded by the National Science Foundation to develop a novel nanotechnology intervention technology to reduce transmission of COVID-19 on surfaces and in the air. SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COIVD-19, is transmitted through both surface droplet (fomite) and aerosol droplet-nuclei transmission. Based on emerging data, this virus can survive in air for hours and on surfaces for days. Control of viral transmission remains a challenge, and all current intervention approaches, such as masks, frequent hand washing, and social distancing are insufficient, particularly as more people return to work and businesses reopen.
Led by Demokritou, researchers at HCNN will utilize their recently developed Engineered Water NanoStructures (EWNS) platform to deliver antimicrobial and neutralizing agents targeting SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces and in the air. EWNS have unique properties: they are highly mobile due to their nanoscale size, electrically charged which results in a lifespan of hours in room conditions, and can be used as carrier of antimicrobial agents. These EWNS have been shown to interact and inactivate the Influenza H1N1 virus and other pathogens on surfaces and in air. Since SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, like Influenza H1N1, researchers at HCNN expect it to be highly susceptible to EWNS exposures. For the purpose of this project, a SARS-CoV-2 specific disulfide-rich peptides (DRPs) will be engineered using synthetic biology approaches and incorporated into EWNS for environmental decontamination. Previous work in the group demonstrated that engineered DRPs can neutralize influenza by binding to its hemagglutinin protein. The work performed as a part of this new grant will adopt the same approach to design and produce neutralizing DRPs for SARS-CoV-2 to enhance antimicrobial capacity of EWNS platform.