10:13 GMT25 July 2021
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    The Technology Development Board, part of the Department of Science and Technology, has taken a lead in providing financial backing for India's industry and start-ups. It aims to promote and commercialise home-grown technology as well as promoting new ideas from small businesses.

    A start-up in India's Pune city has used a combination of 3D printing and pharmaceuticals to develop a special 'virucidal' face mask that it says kills the coronavirus on contact. 

    Thincr Technologies, the start-up that has invented the masks. covers the masks in anti-viral agents called virucides that attack viruses on contact. 

    The product has been financed by India's Technology Development Board, a section of the Department of Science and Technology, and is part of federal government's drive to find new solutions to fight COVID-19. 

    The virus-killing mask is the first project that has been chosen by the Technology Development Board to be rolled out commercially. 

    "We realised at the onset of the pandemic that use of face masks would become nearly universal as the most important tool to prevent infection," said Dr Shitalkumar Zambad, founder director of Thincr.
    "But we realised that most masks which were then available to the majority of people were homemade and of relatively low quality," he added.

    "It is this need for high-quality masks which led us to undertake a project to develop and commercialise  cost-effective and more efficient virucidal coated masks as a better approach to reduce the spread of infection."  

    Thincr worked with Merck Life Sciences' research laboratories to develop the formula for the virucidal coating and then used 3D printing techniques to cover layers of fabric evenly with it.

    This coated layer can also be inserted as an extra layer in N-95 masks, three-ply masks, simple cloth masks, 3D printed or other plastic cover masks, along with reusable filters which have also been developed using 3D printing. 

    The coating, a sodium olefin sulfonate-based mixture, has been tested and shown to destroy the SARS-CoV2 virus, the Ministry of Science and Technology said. "[The coating] is a soap-forming agent which... in contact with enveloped viruses, disrupts the outer membrane of the virus. The ingredients used are stable at room temperature and are widely used in cosmetics," the Ministry added.

    Thincr's Dr Zambad said that the masks have been found to have bacterial filtration efficiency of more than 95 percent. The start-up has started commercial production of the masks and even applied for a patent of this product.

    "This project is the first time we have used 3D printers to make multilayer cloth filters to make precisely fitting plastic-moulded or 3D-printed mask covers," Dr Zambad said.

    So far, 6,000 virucidal masks have been distributed by an NGO to four government hospitals in places such as Nandurbar and Nashik which are both in the state of Maharashtra, and Bengaluru in Karnataka state for the use of healthcare workers and also to a girls' school and a college in Bengaluru city.


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    SARS coronavirus, coronavirus, COVID-19, India, pune
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