Release Date: February 6, 2024
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences (CIGBS) and You First Services Inc., a research and development company spun out of UB, are introducing air-sterilization technology for hospitals, schools and other settings.
The technology, called SteriSpace, works by eliminating aerosolized microbes, including viruses.
The partners recently completed a demonstration project at Schoellkopf Health Center in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. The work was facilitated by Rethink Western New York Community Health Collaborative.
ACS Labs, a Grand Island, New York-based company, collected the baseline air samples within 48 hours from the common areas of this long-term care facility, per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Preliminary test results show no microbial growth.
“With SteriSpace implemented to optimize air quality, no detectable growth of bacterial spores was observed using field conditions that reflect daily indoor traffic patterns,” said Gene D. Morse, PharmD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “These findings came despite numerous potentially complicating variables beyond the project design’s control, such as routine infrastructure issues.”
Morse directs CIGBS, serves on the advisory board of You First Services, which is based in Cheektowaga, New York, and he is co-director of Rethink Western New York.
The City of Niagara Falls and You First Services Inc. funded the demonstration project.
“SteriSpace can be a standalone unit for individual spaces or can scale up to be integrated into a building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system,” said Satish Sharma, MD, chairman and chief executive officer of You First Services and research associate professor of urology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “It will effectively safeguard larger spaces by eliminating aerosolized microbes, thus ensuring environmental safety and much-needed protection from airborne microbes.”
Organizers designed the project by expanding prior independent third-party studies in a real-world scenario.
“We are very impressed with the air-sterilization system that has been operating at the Schoellkopf Health Center,” said Sheila Kee, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. “We plan to work with You First Services to seek grants that will allow the system to be implemented in other high-risk areas of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.”
To ensure a wider and quicker implementation of the technology, Sharma said they are looking into federal, state and local funding.
Morse co-founded Rethink Western New York in 2020 with Rolanda L. Ward, associate professor of social work and endowed faculty director of the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity and Mission at Niagara University.
“Rethink Western New York plans to work with other health care facilities and community centers to expand the evaluation of air-sterilization approaches that could play a role in ongoing and future outbreaks from airborne pathogens such as we experienced during COVID-19,” Morse said. “The next thing is to get a larger sample size.”
Already, You First Services and Rethink Western New York are in discussions with local K-12 schools, other health care organizations, senior care facilities and the Department of Defense.
“Armed forces hospitals, on and off the battlefield, would benefit from having the air sterilized,” Morse said. “Schools are most concerned about air quality in their classrooms, cafeterias and gyms.”
Finally, he noted that they are discussing linking the SteriSpace technology with members of CIGBS’s global program.
“We’re exploring how to get this technology to countries that can really use it,” Morse said. “For instance, infectious diseases like tuberculosis are still very common in South Africa. There is definitely potential for global expansion. This is just the beginning.”