Coronavirus? Bring it on!
A new, nontoxic, biodegradable compound originally developed by Sandia National Laboratories and adapted for commercial use by Albuquerque startup NeoSan Labs could be the new go-to weapon to kill every type of chemical and biological agent known to society in a matter of minutes – and, the company says, with zero harm to humans, animals and plants.
It’s already being used to clean and disinfect government and commercial buildings in New Mexico and elsewhere.
Commercial contractors around the world use the compound for hazmat operations to clean up industrial toxins, decontaminate crime scenes and meth labs, and purify transportation systems. One European company, Hygiene Pro Clean Ltd., uses the compound to fumigate United Kingdom train cars and railway stations every night to detoxify the London Midland Metro system.
NeoSan Labs says its compound, originally developed for the military as a non-toxic method to rapidly kill biological agents like anthrax, is a “broad-spectrum” solution that kills everything from chemical and biological agents to industrial toxins, bacteria and viruses.
“The beauty of the compound is that it has a very large spectrum to kill on contact,” said NeoSan Labs CEO Greg Charillon. “It neutralizes everything.”
NeoSan says its product has the highest kill rate in the industry: 99.99999% effective within minutes. It’s been extensively tested by third parties and proven effective against bacteria, airborne pathogens, toxic chemicals, mold spores and funguses, volatile organic compounds, allergens, and even radiological and nuclear particles. It’s been deemed effective against various strains of coronavirus, as well as other viruses.
It hasn’t yet been tested on the strain currently causing grief, COVID-19, but the solution kills new virus mutations as efficiently as existing ones, Charillon said.
“No virus is immune to its applications,” he said. “Even if it mutates, it will still kill it.”
As for harm to humans and other life, the compound has been certified as a “green clean product” by the International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered the compound in fall 2018, paving the way for commercial use in the U.S.
In fact, the compound is safer than many other products like bleach, which often contain irritants and other elements that can be harmful to people and the environment.
“Our compound is non-toxic and all byproducts are biodegradable,” Charillon said.
It’s based on a low concentration of two active ingredients – hydrogen peroxide and quaternary amines, or quats. The latter is basically soap and is used in many sanitizers today, including disinfectant wipes, sprays and other household cleaners.
In the NeoSan compound, molecules of hydrogen peroxide and quats are electrically bound together. When used for cleaning and disinfection, the quats soften up the exterior or surface of toxins and bacteria, essentially boring holes into them to allow the hydrogen peroxide to rush in and kill them from the inside.
“When the compound comes in contact with a toxic agent, the electrical bond between the molecules is broken,” Charillon said. “That releases what’s basically hydrogen peroxide on steroids to seek out and destroy the agent.”
The compound contains a number of other inactive, or inert, ingredients used to stabilize the product, extending its shelf life and controlling the chemical reactions so decontamination occurs in a safe manner.
The company has developed the compound into four different products for restoration services to decontaminate crime scenes or clean up after a fire, for surface cleaning and disinfecting, for air detoxification, and for carpet cleaning. It can be used as a foam, a gel, a fog or an aerosol.
Charillon, a serial entrepreneur from France, has been working with the compound since 2012, when he obtained a license from Sandia to manufacture the product for military purposes.
“It was originally developed for anthrax,” Charillon said. “Sandia had to come up with a safe compound that could be applied over populated areas.”
In 2018, however, Charillon launched NeoSan Labs with a new Sandia license to develop the compound into a product for commercial markets. The company, which now employs nine, first began selling its products overseas, building markets in Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America.
After achieving EPA registration in 2018, it began marketing the compound in the U.S. It’s currently manufactured by subcontractors in another state, but Charillon plans to build a factory in Albuquerque.
The goal is to build NeoSan Labs into a prospering, homegrown company that remains in New Mexico, said investor John Rice, who serves on the startup’s advisory board.
“NeoSan is selling a high-performance product to very mature markets,” Rice said. “The company is not going to be sold like other venture-backed firms. They want to build it like a classical entrepreneurial deal, grow it over time and make money.”
Charillon and other investors have pumped about $700,000 so far into the startup, which is currently housed at the WESST Enterprise Center Downtown. The company is now raising a seed round of investment to build domestic markets, beginning with cleaning and restoration companies, and later expanding to hospitals and other sectors.
The product is gaining traction – about a half-dozen companies in New Mexico are using it. It’s also being used in other states, including in Hawaii, where one firm uses it under state contracts to clean and disinfect public schools and libraries.
Apart from high-efficiency rates and benign environmental impact, the NeoSan product can save costs for cleaning companies compared with other commercial products because the compound offers more bang for the buck, Charillon said.
It’s an all-in-one solution that doesn’t require any complementary products to clean or disinfect things, and less of the compound is needed for jobs than with other products. No special equipment is required to apply it, and the compound’s long-lasting effectiveness avoids the need for follow-up remediation work.
Local companies that began using the compound last year rave about its benefits.
“It kills mold on contact and leaves no stain or orders,” said Chuck Osborne, general manager for the local franchise of Texas-based Steamatic. “Other products will clean up mold in the short-term, but if it gets wet again, the mold grows back. NeoSan provides a long-lasting kill so the mold doesn’t grow again.”
Steamatic can now eliminate mold at about 2 cents per square foot – a significantly cheaper rate than other products the franchise has used, Osborne said.
“Once you apply the product, it kills instantly,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
LifeROOTS Inc. uses NeoSan’s product to clean government buildings, including the Pete Domenici U.S. Courthouse Downtown, some city facilities, and buildings at Kirtland Air Force Base.
“It’s a great carpet cleaner,” said LifeROOTS contracts director Matthew Molina. “Traditional cleaning methods leave chemicals and residue in the carpets, but NeoSan’s product leaves nothing.”
Molina said it provides a safe, non-toxic solution for company custodians while offering a cleaner environment for customers.
“It’s a whole new product, and one of the only disinfectants I’ve seen that’s actually a green product,” Molina said.
John Mattock, mitigation director with Paul Davis of New Mexico, said the product’s versatility makes it effective for everything from crime scene restoration to eliminating odors with no call-backs from dissatisfied customers.
“We use it all the time and we’re very pleased with the results,” Mattock said.