Matregenix on a Mission to Unlock Nanofiber’s Full Potential
January 11, 2021 | Source: CEOCFO Magazine
Dr. Sherif Soliman, CEO & CTO of Matregenix (pictured above), sat down with Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor of CEOCFO Magazine, to discuss the potential of nanofibers and Matregenix for several applications and industries.
CEOCFO: Dr. Soliman, according to the Matregenix. Inc site, you are unlocking nanofiber’s potential. How so?
Dr. Soliman: We created a platform technology that produces functional nanofiber through proprietary processes and exclusively sourced materials for a diverse set of industrial applications.
Nanofibers have attracted a great deal of attention due to their remarkable properties. To put things in prospective, the width of a nanofiber can be 1000 times smaller than the width of human hair. When you make a web out of these tiny fibers, the final structure will consist mostly of air and its weight compared to traditional materials is virtually negligible. These remarkable properties make nanofiber ideal for use in many applications that includes but not limited to: Medical, Filtration, and Energy.
Although the application of nanofibers has been extensively explored in research, the full potential of the technology has yet to be discovered and exploited in industrial applications. The main reason behind limiting the larger adoption of nanofibers is the availability of manufacturing capacity and an understanding of how to scale-up laboratory procedures in economic way for commercial production.
Essentially, we saw a technology with huge potential trapped in labs and set a goal to take nanofibers to the global market. We are unlocking nanofibers potential by bridging the gap between research and commercialization, focusing on a large-scale manufacturing and product development with advanced proprietary materials. We have the know-how that allow us to guarantee the high needed accuracy and reproducibility of the nanofiber fabrication process at large scale. We have an amazing R&D team that is led by our COO, Dr. Kevin Guo who made a lot of progress and developed many nanofibers-based products.
CEOCFO: What materials do you use?
Dr. Soliman: That really depends on the application. For example, we mainly use synthetic polymers for filtration, and we often use natural or synthetic bioresorbable materials for medical applications. The beauty of our platform technology is that we are not limited to any material. Basically, if we can dissolve a material in a solvent, we can create nanofibers out of it. Also, one of the noticeable market trends is the increasing interest of consumers in sustainable and eco-friendly materials, which directs the nanofiber market towards profitable growth.
CEOCFO: What led you to Matregenix? What is the background behind the company?
Dr. Soliman: I have been conducting research related to Nanofibers since 2005. Throughout these years, I learned about the huge potential of nanofibers. Upon the completion of my postdoctoral training programs, I was ready to move from academic-based research to the practical applications of industry. I wanted to help expand the industrial use of nanofibers. I was surprised to learn that there were only a handful of start-up companies that applied the concept of nanofibers to make products. It is clear that advances in the industry has trailed behind the immense amount of information and research data produced by all the discoveries in the nanofibers field. Research in the field has significantly evolved over the past 30 years, resulting in important breakthroughs. Yet the fact that very little of the research had been translated from lab benches to products left me astonished. That really made me more determined to act and start Matregenix in 2017. We ran our R&D operations from Boston for two years before relocating the company to California.
CEOCFO: How are you able to do it efficiently?
Dr. Soliman: It is simple. Nanofibers based products require high degree of customization based on the end application. The manufacturing process is pretty delicate and involves many variables that needs to be tweaked to tune the final product characteristics. That being the case, the longer experience you have with nanofibers, the faster you can turn concepts into products. Given our long experience with nanofibers research, we have established many standard operating procedures and we have experience with a very wide range of materials that help us quickly match a product target profile with an existing and established processes. We often still need to fine tune the process, but we are not keen on long R&D commitment.
CEOCFO: On your site there are a number of different projects that you are working on. How have you decided what to tackle?
Dr. Soliman: That is a very interesting question. We have been leveraging our nanofiber platform technology to develop various products that includes surgical masks, cosmetic masks, wound healing patches, tissue engineering scaffolds, air filters, water filters, dental barrier membranes, and membranes for lithium-ion batteries. We have a working prototype for each of these applications and we have been in active discussions with strategic partners to bring these products to market. Based on these discussions, we decided to tackle only one or two areas during the next year to stay focused. We plan to disclose the specific applications that we are tackling during the next few weeks.
CEOCFO: Air filtration in what way? Are you talking about masks or are you talking about machinery?
Dr. Soliman: Air filtration in general and masks are one of the first applications. Everything we have done before this year has been focused on using nanofibers for medical applications, but once the pandemic hit earlier this year, we realized that nanofibers can be applied to masks to fulfill the large demand but with substantially better performance than today’s products.
CEOCFO: Matregenix offers a revolutionary virus inactivation technology. Would you tell us about the technology and what about it is revolutionary?
Dr. Soliman: We have developed a patent pending nanofiber-based filter membrane and demonstrated through lab testing that the performance in terms of filtration efficiency and breathability as well as reusability of this novel membrane is superior compared to the best masks that are available today. What is revolutionary about this filter membrane is that it contains a safe virucidal material that deactivates viruses upon contact. This is important because it provides a self-cleaning mechanism to the mask you are wearing, and it eliminates the concern of the wearer’s risk of infection that results from mishandling the mask. The antiviral property of our filter membrane is proven through rigorous testing conducted by top-certified third party.
CEOCFO: Where are you with that today? Are you selling it? Are you still working with companies to develop it?
Dr. Soliman: We established our standard operating procedures and initial production from our lab. We have already proven the scalability of the process with our custom-made industrial scale machines. We have tested the filter to prove its compliance with surgical mask FDA regulations. We have been prototyping and we sent our filter membrane to a mask manufacturer and produced prototypes of different mask designs and distributed it to some potential customers.
We have established relationships with multiple groups around the country that demand masks and ready to enter into supply agreement. We also established relationships with key players in the filtration industry that showed tremendous interest in our filter technology and their feedback after testing our filters has been overwhelmingly positive. We have an advanced discussion with a manufacturing partner to potentially license the mask technology, and we are also assessing the option of scaling up our production.
CEOCFO: How will the cost compare with masks that are currently available?
Dr. Soliman: Masks with our advanced nanofiber filter technology will certainly be more expensive than regular masks.
CEOCFO: Are you finding that people are willing to pay more for the quality and the safety?
Dr. Soliman: That really depends on the sophistication of the buyer. Generally speaking, the surgical mask market is very driven by cost and it is hard to justify a higher price for a better product, however, we found many customers who are willing to pay premium for better and safer mask than the NIOSH certified N95 masks.
CEOCFO: Are hospitals able to see the correlation between breathability and efficiency? Do consumers understand that?
Dr. Soliman: Hospitals often need certifications to make sure the filtration efficiency based on either NIOSH or FDA standard, and breathability presented in pressure drop meets their requirement. On the other hand, the consumer market is not regulated, and most available masks to consumers are not very efficient. Interestingly, our surveys show that consumers care so much about the breathability attribute and that explain the popularity of cloth mask despite their ineffectiveness. Generally speaking, the correlation between breathability and filtration efficiency in today’s masks is inverse relation, and that is exactly what we can change. With nanofibers, it is possible to achieve highly breathable mask without compromising the high filtration efficiency. This is due to the very high surface area to volume ration offered by nanofibers web.
CEOCFO: How have you reached out? There is so much going on with masks and so much need, and so many people looking to talk about what they have developed. How do you weed through all of the noise to get to the right people, to explain that you have something different and better?
Dr. Soliman: There is a very big demand right now and the market has actually been flooded by low quality masks and that has been an issue. Hospitals, as a result, had to lower their standards and many now will accept masks that would not be FDA approved or NIOSH cleared, just because there is no alternative. However, I think we must educate the buyers about the nanofiber technology attributes to cross that adoption chasm.
CEOCFO: What, if anything, have you learned since you started in the area of masks?
Dr. Soliman: We learned that today’s masks are made using a technology called Meltblown, a process that is mainly dominated by China. Meltblown materials cannot easily be sourced from the US and that is why our country was put in this embarrassing situation of low mask supply during the pandemic. Our current reliance on foreign PPE to protect American citizens puts our supply chain and front-line workers at risk. It is critical to our public health and national security that we have domestic production of PPE, and that is why we are committed to bringing to manufacturing not just an alternative technology to the melt-blown, but significantly better. If our nanofiber technology is adapted by US manufacturers, I assure you that we will not have this supply shortage problem again.
CEOCFO: Are you seeking funding, partnership or investment as you move forward?
Dr. Soliman: We are an R&D company that offers contract development and we are self-sustained, but we are currently assessing whether we should setup a large-scale manufacture or partner with some existing manufactures to produce masks at large scale. We may consider opening a funding round based on the approach.
CEOCFO: What should our readers remember most from your interview? What should they recognize about Matregenix?
Dr. Soliman: I just want to emphasize here that we are not a mask company. We are a nanofiber company, which is a platform technology with tremendous potential as I mentioned before. Our company is integrated with a strong IP portfolio and a team of experts in nanofibers technologies. Currently we are focused on expanding our manufacturing capacity to deliver these next generation materials at scale.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the four key attributes for Matregenix?
Dr. Soliman: I can immediately think of: Innovation, exceeding expectations, flexibility, and honesty.
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