Spine Firm Jumps Into Virus-Killing Mask Market
SINTX Technologies, Inc., a manufacturer of spinal implants based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has discovered yet another use for its proprietary biomaterial silicon nitride—a mask that traps and inactivates respiratory viruses.
Company President Sonny Bal, M.D., M.B.A., J.D., Ph.D. told OTW, “Several years ago we discovered that silicon nitride spinal implants showed surface antibacterial properties, even as the surface chemistry of the material was ‘friendly’ toward human cells. Back in 2019 we conducted research demonstrating that silicon nitride may also work against viruses. We put this work ‘on the shelf,’ however, because at the time it was more of an intellectual curiosity.”
Fast forward to 2020, says Dr. Bal, and it was time to dust off that prior work.
“We had an inkling that silicon nitride would work against COVID-19 because it is a single-strand RNA virus. We participated in two studies, here in the USA, and one in Japan where exposure to silicon nitride did indeed result in the complete inactivation of the virus in under a minute. This opened the door to the development of a mask.”
So as to avoid the issue of breathing in the chemical compound, the company is working toward a special fabric that is impregnated with silicon nitrate. “We had to contend with the issue of how to get the material into the mask fabric. Too much heat would burn the fabric—too little and no bonding would occur. We are using a powdered solution that is engineered to distribute silicon nitride evenly all around, with particle clumping.”
Once SINTX overcame these technical barriers, the company created test samples and sent to them to an independent lab. Dr. Bal: “We contracted with academic and commercial enterprises to confirm the antiviral properties of silicon nitride particles, and are awaiting detailed test results from fabric testing. The next step is to move toward scaleup of the antiviral fabric manufacturing process.”
Partnering with veteran face mask makers O2TODAY, SINTX will scale up over the coming weeks and months. “We trust the integrity of our partners and independent labs. Ours is a unique device that not only captures, but captures and kills COVID-19 and other viruses such as SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome). the herpes simplex virus, the influenza virus, and many more.”
“This pandemic has reminded us that we are a global community and that such things as pandemics can even happen here in the U.S. Given the worldwide travel density and population density these respiratory viruses can spread easily. We will surely need such important mask protection going forward.”