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Antimicrobial plastic with lasting action reduces surface transmission risk of diseases, especially among those most vulnerable


Some novice entrepreneurs are willing to compromise a few principles as long as they can raise fund while some are very specific about their stance and who their investors are. Prof. Kan Chi-wai and Dr Chris Lo Kwan-yu of School of Fashion and Textile (SFT) co-founded Immune Materials Ltd (IML), a pioneer in antiviral and antibacterial plastic products using 3D-printing and other traditional means of production. They strongly believe in corporate social responsibility and the importance of fostering an inclusive society. “Good technology should not only help the majority, but also the minority whose voice is never heard, whose interest is often side-lined or even ignored. This is our core value. We are only interested in working with investors who share the same views with us,” says Dr Lo.


Lasting and non-stop actionProduct_Toilet Lock 1370x800
It’s been almost three years since the pandemic started. Most of us have developed a habit of not touching any surface in public places with bare hands because COVID-19 virus can remain active on objects and surfaces up to 72 hours. We can hire janitors to disinfect all surfaces. But no matter how frequently done, it takes just one carrier to contaminate a surface. And someone could be infected if it’s not sterilised again right away. There are antimicrobial coatings that keep a surface germ-free for months, but their action becomes dubious as they can be easily scratched off or damaged by disinfectants like alcohol and bleach.


The truly long-term solution should keep performing its antimicrobial action every moment throughout its whole lifecycle, despite daily wear and tear and repeated cleaning. And IMU+® by IML is the answer. Proven to wipe out up to 99.9% of common bacteria and 99.2% of COVID-19 variants within 20 minutes, IMU+® products and materials developed by IML are guaranteed to stay effective for up to three years even if their surfaces are damaged. Antimicrobial agents are embedded in the resin and distributed throughout its structure so that scratching the surface and daily cleaning with disinfectants won’t compromise its performance. According to Prof. Kan, “the antimicrobial agents work by physically puncturing the pathogens’ cell membranes and destroying their structures with positively charged cations.” Not only can IMU+® plastic be 3D-printed, but also incorporated in plastic pellets for conventional production methods such as injection moulding.


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Caring for the less-privilege

IML was founded in 2021 and was accepted into the incubation programme at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks in the same year. In January 2022, IML announced their IMU+® technology for the first time and attracted much attraction amid the fifth wave of COVID outbreak in Hong Kong. As IMU+® plastic can be 3D-printed flexibly into different forms, such as handles, door knob covers, and lift buttons, it was soon applied to public facilities extensively, especially in environments with high risk of pathogen transmission such as quarantine centres, hospitals, schools and hotels.



Though many benefit from the use of IMU+® products in large-scale public facilities, projects that target the vulnerable and disadvantaged lie closest the founders’ hearts. One of their pilot projects was sponsored by their first angel investor, Mr Vincent Lam, CEO and Founder of Asiaray Media Group. “He fully supports our philosophy and donated money for us to conduct a trial of IMU+® products in ‘three-nil’ buildings in Sham Shui Po – those poorly managed properties without management companies, residents’ or owners’ organizations. Swanky shopping malls and grade-A offices have the resources to hire more janitors for routine disinfection. But dilapidated buildings in an aging, underprivileged community don’t,” says Dr Lo. Thanks to its lasting action and low maintenance, IMU+® technology is the perfect solution for buildings with limited resources.


A worthwhile investment, a unique business case

“I’m honoured to be a part of the meaningful project,” says Mr Vincent Lam. “Residents in ‘three-nil’ buildings shouldn’t be unfairly exposed to the virus just because they lack financial means.” He also admitted that he volunteered to be an angel investor because Prof. Kan and Dr Lo impressed him with their heart and passion, not just as devoted scholars, but also as problem solvers. “They are not in it for the money. But they don’t live in an ivory tower either. IMU+® technology is not a castle in the sky – it’s effective and it truly protects people’s lives amid the pandemic. I’m more than willing to contribute my marketing expertise to help make the brand a success.” The seasoned entrepreneur believes his investment is worthwhile because there isn’t any other alternative in the market that offers the same business case.


In the same line of thought, Dr Lo is also proud of their 3D-printed antiviral lift button covers with Braille code. In the past few years, we’ve been so obsessed with keeping every high-touch surface pristine that we accidentally sacrificed the convenience among those with impaired vision – the plastic sheet and gel pads used to cover lift buttons for easy disinfection also cover the Braille code that visually challenged users rely on to navigate their way. “There are over 170,000 people in Hong Kong living with visual impairments. Throughout the pandemic, no one has thought about the difficulties they encountered. People even came up with touchless lift buttons with infrared sensors which are insensitive to their needs. The only way for them to make sense of the environment is by touching it. The bottom line is, let them touch it, but don’t let them get infected. That’s why we modified the lift button cover designs five times, just to improve the way they are installed and how the surface feels after polishing. It’s because we want Hong Kong to be an inclusive society where everyone’s rights and needs are respected,” he adds.


Ready for nationwide expansionmask holder

Besides 3D printing, IMU+® formula is also applied to mass production methods, and that, Dr Lo believes, could contribute to the re-industrialisation of Hong Kong. “They are essentially two markets – 3D printing takes time, but is perfect for short production runs with customised or variable designs; high-volume production methods like injection moulding is good for identical products in long production runs. IML takes care of the 3D printing products ourselves, and collaborates with traditional plastic product manufacturers for high-volume orders. For instance, we made the antiviral face mask storage box for PolyU’s 85th Anniversary by adding IMU+® formula to regular plastic pellets and have a manufacturer mass produced it for us.

recycle 2Right now, IML is working closely with RGF Environmental New Material Limited (or RGF in short) to incorporate IMU+® formula in recycled plastic pellets for mass production of antimicrobial plastic products, such as large-scale garbage cans. Mr Lam King Sang, Executive Director, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Integrated Waste Solutions Group Holdings Limited, the parent company of RGF, is confident that their collaboration would contribute to a circular economy and give IMU+® products an eco-friendly edge. “By working with IML, we hope to bring positive impacts to the local recycling industry, facilitating the shift towards higher value-added activities, in accordance with Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+,” says Mr Lam King Sang. He also remarked on the expanding product range to cater to people’s needs and how the pandemic unfolds.

With a mission is to protect people by leveraging innovative long-lasting antiviral solutions, to build an inclusive society, and to care for the vulnerable and disadvantage, IML is exploiting the market in the Greater Bay Area and the rest of mainland China. “In a long run, we want our brand to be a seal of confidence, a trusted sign immediately recognised by a global audience for its remarkable antimicrobial action,” says Dr Lo.


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