Kas­tus hop­ing to clean up on in­ter­na­tional mar­ket

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS INNOVATION - Barry McCall

Kas­tus, an Ir­ish com­pany re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ation of a ground-break­ing tech­nol­ogy to pre­vent the spread of su­per­bugs, has an­nounced the clo­sure of a €3 mil­lion ven­ture fund­ing round, and sig­nif­i­cant new de­vel­op­ments in the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of its in­no­va­tion.

“We should have the fund­ing in place next month, and it will en­able us to hire a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of new peo­ple to work with us on the scal­ing of the com­pany and the tech­nol­ogy,” says chief ex­ec­u­tive John Browne.

“Scal­ing is re­ally about peo­ple. We are hir­ing a mix of tech­ni­cal, sales, mar­ket­ing, de­vel­op­ment and back-of­fice staff. We al­ready have a very good R&D team, and we are ex­pand­ing our sales and mar­ket­ing team at the mo­ment and have just ap­pointed Alan Crean as vice-pres­i­dent sales and mar­ket­ing to lead that.”

Crean will play a key role in re­al­is­ing the com­pany’s growth am­bi­tions in the com­ing years, ac­cord­ing to Browne. “It’s a very ex­cit­ing time for us. Alan has very deep ex­pe­ri­ence in scal­ing life sciences busi­nesses, and he will help us re­alise our lofty am­bi­tion of achiev­ing a €100 mil­lion val­u­a­tion for the com­pany within the next three years.”

The Kas­tus prod­uct is an an­timi­cro­bial spray coat­ing which can be ap­plied to glass and ce­ram­ics dur­ing or after man­u­fac­ture or added to plas­tics and paint. It can be used to pro­tect a range of high-touch ev­ery­day sur­faces – in­clud­ing ce­ramic and glass tiles, smart­phones, glass, door han­dles and met­als – from harm­ful bac­te­ria and mi­cro-or­gan­isms such as MRSA and e-coli.

The coat­ing has a proven 99.99 per cent kill rate against harm­ful bac­te­ria, fungi and an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs, which makes it par­tic­u­larly use­ful for prod­ucts such as ce­ramic tiles and glass which will be used in hos­pi­tal or other set­tings where hy­giene is at a pre­mium

It is also the first prod­uct of its kind that can be fac­tory ap­plied on ev­ery­day hard sur­faces us­ing no toxic bi-prod­ucts. Pre­vi­ous an­timi­cro­bial so­lu­tions needed UV light or bio­cide chem­i­cal leach­ing to be ac­ti­vated, but Kas­tus’s prod­ucts are ac­ti­vated by in­door light and en­vi­ron­men­tal mois­ture.

Growth paths

The 2017 Ir­ish Times In­no­va­tion Awards Winner has iden­ti­fied a num­ber of growth paths. “Our whole com­mer­cial fo­cus is in­ter­na­tional,” says Browne. “We are not look­ing for any sales on the do­mes­tic mar­ket. Our whole fo­cus in on orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in Europe, the Mid­dle East and the US. We are tar­get­ing the in­ter­na­tional glass and ce­ram­ics in­dus­tries in the first in­stance, and will grow from there. Our tech­nol­ogy adds value to their prod­ucts – it gives them anti-mi­cro­bial prop­er­ties, makes them eas­ier to clean, and makes them longer last­ing.”

The com­pany also re­cently an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Am­ber, the Science Foun­da­tion Ire­land (SFI) funded ma­te­ri­als science cen­tre at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin, which will in­volve spe­cialised re­search work on the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of an­timi­cro­bial coat­ings.

The €280,000 re­search pro­gramme will see two aca­demic ex­perts in science and en­gi­neer­ing join Kas­tus from Am­ber under the SFI In­dus­try Fel­low­ship Pro­gramme.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion has the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact how MRSA and other su­per­bugs are con­trolled and pre­vented in hos­pi­tal and com­mu­nity set­tings, ac­cord­ing to Am­ber di­rec­tor Prof Michael Mor­ris.

“This is an ex­cit­ing move for Kas­tus, and demon­strates the links that we are con­tin­u­ing to forge with academia,” adds Kas­tus’s di­rec­tor of in­no­va­tion and op­er­a­tions Dr James Kennedy.

“We are al­ready working with Crest [Cen­tre for Re­search in En­gi­neer­ing Sur­face Tech­nol­ogy] at the Dublin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, and be­lieve that col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween aca­demic re­search and in­dus­try is key to ma­jor break­throughs in tech­nol­ogy.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tions

Browne be­lieves those col­lab­o­ra­tions of­fer a po­ten­tially rich seam of new tech­nolo­gies for the com­pany to com­mer­cialise.

“We are start­ing to cast our net out to the third-level in­sti­tu­tions to see if they have com­ple­men­tary tech­nolo­gies to ours which we can help bring to mar­ket. There are a lot of tech­nolo­gies and bright ideas in the third-level in­sti­tu­tions which tend to stay in the lab be­cause the peo­ple in­volved are not com­mer­cial an­i­mals.

“We know from ex­pe­ri­ence that it’s a long, hard and ex­pen­sive road to com­mer­cialise a tech­nol­ogy, and we want to col­lab­o­rate with them on this. We have al­ready iden­ti­fied two tech­nolo­gies that we are working on.”

In terms of the core prod­uct, he says the in­ten­tion is to be­come more se­lec­tive in the sales ef­fort.

“When you’re a start-up you can be a bit like an ex­cited labrador chas­ing leaves around the gar­den. We have to guard against that, and re­fine our sales process to be­come a bit more choosy. We want to work with peo­ple who un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the com­mer­cial ad­van­tages and the value-add that our prod­uct of­fers.”

Our whole fo­cus in on orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in Europe, the Mid­dle East and the US

Kas­tus chief ex­ec­u­tive John Browne and Alan Crean, vice-pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing.

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