Antibiotics, disinfectants and detergents are proving no match for biofilm, the sticky cluster of microbes that can form on everything from household surfaces to medical implants and devices.

A reported 75 percent of healthcare-associated infections – which cause 99,000 deaths every year in the United States alone — can be traced to biofilm on devices such as catheters, ventilators and endotracheal tubes.

Within the next 24 months, the Israeli company NanoLock expects to win regulatory clearance for its first two products embedded with a novel antimicrobial nanomaterial developed in the lab of Prof. Ervin Weiss, former head of prosthodontics at the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine in Jerusalem and current dean of the Tel Aviv University dental school.

Dental materials are NanoLock’s first priority and from there the sky’s the limit, depending on the needs of strategic partners for the Kfar Saba-based company.

The Israeli company has a wide variety of potential partners, considering that the US National Institutes of Health estimates biofilm is responsible for more than 60% of all microbial infections.

Nontoxic, long-lasting

Dr. Julia Rothman, NanoLock’s cofounder and vice president for clinical and regulatory affairs, tells ISRAEL21c that NanoLock’s nanoparticle is unique on several counts: it kills both bacteria and fungi; it is not a coating but is built into the device; and it contains no metal or toxic ingredients, unlike most antimicrobial materials that rely on silver, an expensive and toxic component.

The nano-polymer additive is activated only on contact, doesn’t leak or dissolve into the surrounding environment, and preserves the device’s anti-biofilm properties indefinitely without changing the device’s own proprieties.

“The technology is very safe and effective and doesn’t alter the device or its functionality,” Rothman says. “The implications are vast. We’re more interested in the medical field but other potential fields such as air filters and water filters makers also are approaching us. There are diverse realms that deal with biofilm issues.”

The material has been tested with plastic and glass, and could also be embedded in textiles. A formulation for metal is still in development.

Three-quarters of healthcare-related infections are from biofilm on devices such as tubes and catheters. Image via Shutterstock.com
Three-quarters of healthcare-related infections are from biofilm on devices such as tubes and catheters. Image via Shutterstock.com

Rothman says the cost of the product is not yet determined but it is expected to be manufactured on a mass scale.

“We’ve done first-in-man clinical trials in Israel involving 13 volunteers with wonderful results. We will do more trials depending on the regulatory path and indications needed by our partners,” she says.

Meanwhile, NanoLock is completing a feasibility study for a company that requested to test its nanoparticles, and the self-funded company is looking to complete its first investment round by year’s end.

Home supplies and packaging next?

The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control consider fighting microbial infections a top priority. In 2009, US President Obama and then-EU President Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden established a transatlantic taskforce on antimicrobial resistance.

Statistics show that on any given day, about one in 18 European hospital patients and one in 25 US hospital patients is affected by at least one healthcare-associated infection.

“One of our main missions is to enable the use of medical devices, such as catheters, bearing inherent antimicrobial proprieties that are maintained throughout the product life cycle,” says Rothman.

The core technology was commercialized and licensed to NanoLock through Hadasit Medical Research Services & Development, Hadassah Ein-Kerem Medical Center Jerusalem and Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University. Rothman cofounded NanoLock with Weiss, who established the department of dental materials at Hadassah’s Dental Rehabilitation Laboratory.

In the future, the NanoLock nanomaterial could be used not only in the medical-dental field but also in home supplies and food production and packaging.

ISRAEL21c previously reported on a polymer coating created at the Hebrew University by graduate student Michael Brandwein in the dental school’s Biofilm Research Laboratory. This innovation is shown capable of decreasing biofilm buildup by about 60% on plastic and glass surfaces, and by about 95% on cardboard, so it could be promising for the food packaging industry.

For more information on NanoLock, contact Rothman at drrothmanjulia@gmail.com.