Richmond-based Cupron has more than just germ fighting socks up its sleeve.
Cupron and another Virginia company have teamed up to create a countertop that essentially cleans itself.
The secret, Cupron Executive Chairman Paul Rocheleau said, is infusing the surface with copper ions.
“The copper particles are actually embedded into the countertop, and they’re always working,” Rocheleau said.
Copper works as a broad spectrum antimicrobial, with the ability to kill a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses. The copper will work indefinitely, constantly disinfecting the surface.
Cupron has been working with the sanitizing powers of copper since the company was founded Israel about 10 years ago. Three years ago, a group of investors purchased the company and moved it to Richmond.
Until recently, Cupron worked primarily with fabrics, creating copper-infused hospital garments, bed sheets and other linens. Cupron supplies socks for the Israeli military and sent a batch of socks to the trapped Chilean miners in 2010.
EOS Surfaces, founded about seven years ago and based in Norfolk, manufactures polymer-based acrylic countertops. EOS President Ken Trinder said he met Rocheleau about two years ago and saw a wide range of applications for blending the copper ions into EOS products, particularly in the medical arena.
“We were already making a polymer-based surface material, and I just got incredibly excited about the potential of it,” Trinder said. “The next step for us is to put it into a clinical setting and watch it translate into a real-world effect on patient safety.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) contribute to almost 100,000 deaths each year and that these infections cost up to $33 billion to treat each year.
Rocheleau said hospitals are often stuck using reactive treatments, such as antibiotics, to treat HAIs after preventive measures fall short.
“[Right now] there is no technology that is working in the background to provide a continuous layer of protection,” Rocheleau said.
The Cupron/EOS technology is ready for market, Rocheleau and Trinder said, but they’re waiting for the go-ahead from EPA to add a “public health claim” to their product, which certifies its effectiveness against a range of disease-causing microbes.
“We have done all the test work, submitted all the 14,000 samples, and effectively the file is in the hands of the EPA, awaiting final approval,” Trinder said.
Trinder hopes to receive approval by the end of the year. EOS and Cupron have already had discussions to sell the surfaces to multiple health systems in Virginia. They declined to specify which systems they have spoken with.
Moving forward, Rocheleau and Trinder see much wider applications outside the medical community.
“There are uses in the hospitality industry, the hotels, the restaurants … anywhere where you want to have a background of cleanliness,” Rocheleau said. “Anywhere you go, wouldn’t you want to have a self-sanitizing surface?”