SUrfaCe Characteristics Enabled StrategieS against virus transmission (SUCCESS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


We propose to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 between humans by development of antiviral formulated products. It will be delivered via additives in domestic formulated products, e.g. spray or aerosol, or integrated with current manufacturing processes, forming an invisible and long-lasting film of sub-micron thickness. Unlike disinfectants, formulations will be designed to both capture the aerosol droplets and inactivate the virus.

Our first priority is to establish a mechanistic understanding of the interactions between aerosol droplets (or pure virus particles) and surfaces, which will inform possible antiviral mechanisms while providing a set of fundamental and coherent design principles for antiviral surfaces.

Two technology platforms will be pursued to leverage the expertise and capability of our industrial partners. Polymer additives with controlled chemistry and molecular architecture will be explored to generate molecular films that facilitate disruption of aerosolised droplets and which may rupture the viral envelope or interfere adversely with key viral proteins and or genetic material. Proposed nanocellulose additives will confer additional benefits in terms of providing a porous structure designed to wick and absorb any protective mucus present.

In parallel, hybrid polymer technology will be developed, employing reactive oxygen-producing copper nanoparticles coupled with flavin dyes that produce singlet oxygen species known to deactivate viruses when irradiated with light of the appropriate wavelength.

Upon satisfactory antiviral testing results, promising design/formulation will be recommended based on their processability, suitability for end-applications, and environmental impact. Industrial partners with substantial experience in formulation will carry out pilot-scale production and full- scale manufacturing subsequently.


10 25 50
Description During the first few months of this project, we identified the underpinning molecular mechanisms that determine the prolonged lifetime of aerosol droplets on surfaces. Our finding highlights the importance of proteins and enzymes present in the body fluid, which provides a protective environment for the virus. We speculate that the proteins will also prolong the viability of virus in both aerosol and surface deposits. The research outcome could potentially transform how the scientific communities approach surface transmission of virus. The importance of chemical compounds such as protein and enzyme in saliva has been highlighted in our study. We have subsequently developed two strategies in inhibiting the transmission pathway of SARS-CoV-2 virus, which can be extended to the other respiratory virus such as Influenza in the future.
Exploitation Route Five manuscripts are under preparation at the moment, two of which are nearly ready for submission as pre-print.

There are several pathways we could like to pursue for taking the outcomes of this funding forward:
1. publishing research outcome as preprint so that the knowledge could be disseminated at the earliest possibility
2. engaging with our industrial partners and seek their feedback on how best to translate the laboratory findings into commercial products
3. developing strategic partnership with public bodies such as PHE, Dstl, and NHS, so that our findings could potentially be translated into best practice
Sectors Chemicals,Construction,Healthcare,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

Description Our preliminary findings have been shared with PHE, Dstl, and NHS, with the aim of providing the latest understanding and promising technologies in inhibiting surface transmission of virus. We are working hard to engage with the project partners to finalise the antiviral mechanism and plan to transfer the knowledge to the industrial partners involved in the project. We have now established a solid understanding of the antiviral mechanism of the porous substrate, which will be further developed and implemented in a Horizon Europe consortium to work with industrial partners covering textile, transportation, paint, and packaging.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Healthcare,Security and Diplomacy,Transport
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description Horizon Europe Guarantee
Amount € 5,950,929 (EUR)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2023 
End 12/2027
Description Collaboration with Dstl 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I have started discussion with the Aerosol Team, part of the Microbiology and Aerosol Science Group (Dstl), with regards the surface transmission of aerosol upon contact. Dr Richard Thomas has been in constant contact to discuss their needs of physical characterisation of saliva and surfaces - we recognise that there is a great overlap in terms of research interest with complementary skillsets/expertise. Discussion is ongoing in identifying the best course of action to move forward.
Collaborator Contribution The Aerosol Team at Dstl has extensive expertise in investigating the microbiological aspects of aerosols that contain virus, and will assist us in developing knowledge on aerosol-surface interaction, which underpins the design of antiviral surface characteristics.
Impact There is no outcome yet. However, we envisage that some joint work will start shortly.
Start Year 2020
Description Collaboration with Procter & Gamble 
Organisation Procter & Gamble
Department Procter & Gamble (United Kingdom)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have a strategic partnership with P&G, and have started discussion on research collaboration in developing antiviral, antimicrobial formulated products that could be made available to the wide society.
Collaborator Contribution P&G have a broad range of disruptive technologies that can potentially be used as antiviral/antimicrobial products, and are keen to establish the fundamental understanding of antiviral surface principles.
Impact The collaboration on developing antiviral products is under development.
Start Year 2018
Description Potential contribution to the NHS Test & Trace capability 
Organisation National Health Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution At the end of January, we started discussion with the NHS Test & Trace team who was looking for innovative technology in inhibiting virus transmission. The cellulose film technology was presented to the NHS team during a workshop.
Collaborator Contribution The NHS Test & Trace team is actively looking for potential technology that can be implemented to inhibit surface transmission of virus. We are awaiting feedback from the NHS team.
Impact No outcome yet. We will engage with the Test & Trace team to seek feedback in the next few weeks.
Start Year 2021
Description Potential partnership with PHE, Dstl, and NHS Test & Trace 
Organisation Public Health England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have started discussion with Dr Allan Benett, Dr Ginny Moore, and Dr Barry Atkinson from the Biosafety, Air and Water Microbiology Group, National Infection Service, Public Health England, to materialise a research collaboration that will be based on the knowledge and expertise of my group in molecular understanding of saliva and how that will determine the lifetime and transmission of virus in both aerosol and surface deposited form.
Collaborator Contribution Research teams at the PHE have extensive knowledge and first hand experience of aerosol transmission, and are keen to develop mechanistic understanding of the surface interactions.
Impact It is under development. However, we would anticipate the collaboration to be materialised in the next month.
Start Year 2020
Description Workshop organised by the NHS Test & Trace Team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Nearly 30 people attended the invited-only workshop organised by the NHS Test & Trace team to present the technologies that could potentially help in inhibiting the transmission of virus. As a team specialised in surface transmission, we presented our knowledge in the surface transmission and the prototype of cellulose film coating.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021