Batten’s Bala Mulloth Receives COVID-19 Social Entrepreneurship Grant

In a multidisciplinary effort, Mulloth and his colleagues will use the grant funding to further research commercialization efforts on a new technology to combat the shortage of personal protective equipment.

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From left, Bala Mulloth, Gaurav Giri and Michael D. Williams. (Mulloth and Giri photos by Dan Addison, University Communications; Williams by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

A team of faculty that includes Batten professor Bala Mulloth has been awarded $110,000 for its proposal titled “Technology-Driven Entrepreneurial Solutions to Address Healthcare Worker Protection Needs.” The team’s efforts center around a novel, patent-filed process to rapidly apply metal organic frameworks, MOFs, to fabrics, making it possible for the fabric to filter particulate and viral matter. Using both a technology and human centered design thinking approach, these MOF-coated fabrics can be integrated into existing textile dyeing processes with wide flexibility in fabric choice to create effective PPE’s. The grant comes from the Charlottesville-based Ivy Foundation, which has committed $2 million to support research concerning COVID-19.

In a multi-disciplinary effort, Mulloth is collaborating with Gaurav Giri from the School of Engineering and Michael D. Williams from the School of Medicine to address the national shortage of personal protective equipment. Mulloth and Giri are the co-founders of Hava, Inc., a materials science-based company focussed on the fabrication of mass manufacturable and effective air filtration devices. 

The team seeks to work in tandem with staff at the UVa Medical School to figure out how best the technology can be utilized as an effective PPE based on the healthcare workers’ evolving needs and wants. Given that the compound has the potential to increase the filtration capacity of cotton by a factor of 10, materials treated with it are anticipated to rival N95 masks, the current gold standard. Masks created with the compound are also anticipated to be breathable and washable.

"We're grateful to the Ivy Foundation COVID-19 Translational Research Fund for their support. As the pandemic swells and we confront N95 mask shortages, alternative PPE will be essential,” Mulloth said. “We’re confident that our patent-filed manufacturing process and social entrepreneurial approach will help us address the problem in a smart, timely and efficient manner.” 

Fourteen projects from UVA faculty were selected to receive support from the Ivy Foundation. In addition to healthcare worker protection, the fund will enable research covering diagnosis, treatment, and vaccine development.

Read more about this project and the thirteen others selected for funding in UVA Today.