ZEN Graphene Solutions moves towards commercialization of virus-killing mask


ZEN is collaborating with partners to develop virucidal face masks and PPE

Back in May 2020 InvestorIntel wrote about the very exciting development of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that not only protect the wearer, but actually kill viruses on contact. to help . Since then the development of  a “graphene virucidal ink face mask” and PPE has been progressing nicely in the fight against COVID-19.

In late July 2020 ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSXV: ZEN) (“ZEN”) reported that research teams at a number of personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers are collaborating with ZEN to incorporate ZEN’s virus-killing graphene ink into commercial products, including masks, gloves, gowns and other clothing. This follows ZEN’s promising testing results from the University of Western Ontario’s ImPaKT Facility, biosafety Level 3 lab.

ZEN has synthesized a ‘silver nanoparticles functionalized graphene oxide ink’ that has been documented by previous researchers to kill earlier versions of coronavirus. Silver is well known to be a potential virucidal agent.

Photo: iStock

In July ZEN reported in a news release that the company “continues to optimize its proprietary formulation for dosage and delivery mechanism for highest antiviral impact. The next phase of testing is currently underway at the ImPaKT Facility and includes a preferred mask fabric, from one of our collaborators, coated in ZEN’s virucidal ink exposed to and tested against the COVID-19 virus.”

Dr. Francis Dubé, CEO of ZEN, commented that “Based on results so far and our discussions with the team at Western, we are quickly moving to integrate our material into commercial products with partners who wish to increase the level of COVID-19 protection their products currently offer.”

Given the world needs at least 3.5b N95 face masks to fight COVID-19, the potential demand for ZEN’s graphene based virucidal ink face mask could be enormous. If the new virucidal mask captured just 10% market share of the 3.5 billion masks needed that would mean manufacturing and selling ~350 million masks. Or even if just made mandatory for health care workers globally, the market would be very large, as there is an estimated 59 million health care workers worldwide. Each health care worker would need a number of masks per year. The revenue opportunities could be enormous if ZEN’s graphene based virucidal ink is licensed on a per unit basis. Added to this would be the potential for use in other PPE. For a small company such as ZEN the potential revenue upside could be highly significant.

Tests are still underway to improve and prove the effectiveness of the virucidal masks, but CEO Dubé’s public comments about integrating ZEN’s material into commercial products with partners indicates a positive outcome is looking increasingly possible.

Last week ZEN announced that it will “report shortly on significant progress being made in multiple programs, one of which has resulted in the preparation of a patent filing that is central to ZEN’s business plan.” Zen also announced receiving significant funding grants: “two NSERC Alliance COVID-19 project grants, a Mitacs Elevate Postdoctoral Fellowship grant, and two Mitacs Accelerate grants for a total of $355,000 to its university collaborators,” which increased ZEN’s total research and development budget for the next 12 months to over $1.4M.

Graphene’s potential

Graphene is a new wonder material with incredible potential to be commercialized in a huge number of products. These are as diverse as graphene coatings that can greatly improve corrosion resistance, increase strength, reduce friction and can be hydrophobic reducing ice formation (aerospace and aircraft industries). As a diesel/jet fuel additive it can improve fuel economy and reduces greenhouse emissions. It is also useful in electromagnetic shielding and electrostatic dissipation, desalinization membranes and low-energy dehumidification, heavy metal scavenging and removing industrial contamination, photovoltaics, displays & biomedical applications using graphene quantum dots, virucidal inks, as a material enhancement (clothes, tire strengthener, concrete additive), hydrogen storage and production, and advanced batteries. Samsung is developing an advanced graphene phone battery. Graphene is super lightweight and also strengthens aluminum, rubber, plastics and other materials, making its list of applications almost endless.

The graphene market is forecast to grow at a 39-45% CAGR this decade

Source: Company presentation

Closing remarks

In addition to its advanced application projects, ZEN owns a graphite mine and has commenced small scale graphene production from their facility in Canada, and has numerous other potential uses to commercialize their graphene product. At the current market cap of just C$31m the stock is not yet pricing in any chance of significant success in the virucidal mask and PPE market, or in the larger graphene market. This is good news for investors looking for underappreciated and early stage stocks. If ZEN is able to successfully commercialize its viricudal mask/PPE or other graphene products, it would be a game-changer.

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