Jamaican invention a COVID-19 fighter

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Jamaican invention a COVID-19 fighter

UTech student on cloud nine as creation touted as possible weapon against deadly virus

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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UNIVERSITY of Technology (UTech), Jamaica student Rayvon Stewart is on top of the world this morning after his invention “XERMOSOL” was yesterday named by Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland as a possible key weapon in the fight to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Words can't express my feelings. I stood in shock for like 10 minutes or maybe a little more [when I heard]. Words really can't express my feelings,” Stewart, a final-year student in the School of Computing and Information Technology at UTech told the Jamaica Observer

“The first thing that came to my mind is that, finally, I can start implementing and trying to save humanity.

“This is something that the world really needs and, finally, they are seeing that there is a need for it and, sadly, persons had to start dying before they saw the need,” added Stewart.

XERMOSOL is a simple device that uses ultraviolet light technology to kill bacteria found on doorknobs, thereby reducing the risk of an individual contracting a germ upon contact.

The innovation would be particularly useful in public spaces, such as hospitals and health care facilities, in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses. The unique device is simpler than similar products, which require the installation of new doorknobs.

In an opinion piece released yesterday, the Commonwealth secretary general noted that, after the outbreak of the lethal bacteria Klebsiella in Jamaica five years ago, Stewart set about finding a way to curb the spread of harmful germs.

“I made a determined decision that I was going to find a solution to limit the transfer of pathogens to multiple surfaces, thereby saving lives,” Scotland quoted Stewart as saying at the time.

Klebsiella, like COVID-19, is spread from person to person or via contaminated surfaces. It can be killed by hand-washing with warm, soapy water.

“I met Rayvon at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva last year. He was among the finalists short-listed for last year's Commonwealth Health Innovation Awards,” Scotland said.

“He took part in an exhibition on the theme 'Universal Health Coverage: Reaching the unreached, ensuring that no one is left behind', which highlighted how young people are tackling age-old challenges with modern technology and disruptive thinking.

“The event underlined [the] Commonwealth['s] commitment to empowering young people as outlined in our charter, and also our contribution to achieving the sustainable development goals,” said Scotland.

She noted that in Stewart's case he focused on the most common places where bacteria and viruses could easily be left by one person and picked up directly by another.

“The potential impact of Rayvon's invention could now be even more important than when he first conceived it, as the world battles the frightening COVID-19 pandemic.

“The coronavirus lives up to two or three days on stainless steel and metal, and several hours on fabric, depending on factors such as temperature and humidity,” added Scotland.

The secretary general also noted that field and laboratory testing has validated XERMOSOL'S efficiency in killing more than 99.9 per cent of deadly pathogens.

“In addition to health facilities, Rayvon hopes it could help reduce transmission of germs in other public spaces, such as schools and businesses.

“Tests carried out in conjunction with University of Technology, Jamaica and The University of the West Indies show XERMOSOL destroys organisms such as MRSA and E coli, and destroys viral cells such as influenza virus H1N1.

“This is a huge step in the fight against microorganisms and offers new ways of thinking around combating viral cells such as coronavirus,” declared Scotland.

According to the secretary general, Stewart has said the recognition he received from the Commonwealth Health Innovation Awards was a key moment in XERMOSOL'S progress, generating immense interest in the project.

“But now the production of XERMOSOL faces a number of considerable challenges — from development funding to finding a manufacturer to mass produce.

“Financing options are mostly focused on large-scale innovation, but the Commonwealth is exploring and proposing that all 54 member countries go into partnership with the Global Innovation Fund to help young innovators like Rayvon,” said Scotland.

Over the past two years, the Commonwealth Youth Health Network has worked closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states to leverage the unique capabilities of young people and drive forward progress toward sustainable development goal number three, which includes a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis.

Stewart and his team placed fourth in the National Business Model Competition and went on to compete up to the semi-final round in the International Business Model Competition (IBMC), held May 9–10, 2019 in Utah, United States.

Despite not winning either competition, the team's impressive showing at the IBMC led to an invitation by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in the Young Innovators Exhibition at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat on May 19, 2019.

At the meeting, he had the privilege of sharing his innovative product with 53 health ministers across the wider Commonwealth.

Scotland had committed to assist all six young innovators across the Commonwealth who were chosen to attend the conference. They will receive assistance through the newly established Commonwealth Innovators' Hub.

Since his return to Jamaica, Stewart has reported that he and his team of innovators continue to develop the prototype with a view to approaching potential investors/manufacturers. He also shared that the innovation is currently protected under a provisional patent.

Stewart has heaped praises on his mentors and advisers, including Novelette Cooke, programme director; Kirkland Rowe, senior lecturer in the School of Engineering; Dr Carol Nathan, lecturer in the Business and Computer Studies Programme, Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies and chairperson of UTech, Jamaica BMC Committee; and Donna Duncan-Scott, group executive director, culture and human development, JMMB Group.


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