Aqdot, the Cambridge-based supramolecular chemistry company, explains how winning the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition in 2013 gave them a platform to develop, gain valuable insight from industry leaders, and boost their potential to change the lives of millions of people.
The company’s core technology is the high-performing chemtech platform called AqBit, a group of barrel-shaped molecules that are exceptional in their ability to capture, hold and release a variety of molecules and materials.
Their near-term commercial focus is in air quality, from effective odour-elimination solutions for household care to air filters that remove volatile organic compounds to improve indoor air quality.
Looking ahead, their medium- and long-term focuses are in personal care and life sciences.
Here, Jing Zhang, explains how they have progressed in the years since winning their award.
Q. What impact has your technology had, how will it improve the lives of others, address a particular problem or change the world?
As a platform technology with many commercial applications, we bring to society a number of benefits impacting health and wellbeing, climate action, and hunger.
AqBit-enabled air purifying solutions will provide better air quality by removing volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, impacting at least 4 million lives who die prematurely due to indoor air pollution.
AqBit also provides an effective fragrance-free alternative in household and personal care products for people with fragrance allergies, and those with medical conditions (such as colostomy and incontinence) who want to remove odour without masking with tell-tale fragrances. This is estmated to impact at least 80 million lives per year.
By removing the strong odours derived from contaminants on recycled material and improving their quality, AqBit has the potential to fundamentally change the economics of plastic recycling and encourage its greater use.
It can also tackle hunger by improving yield of oil seed rape by preventing pod shattering using an AqBit-enabled pod sealant.
Q. What kind of commercial milestones have you reached since winning the Emerging Technologies Competition?
We have launched a consumer product brand called Oderase containing two next-generation fragrance-free air freshening products – one targeting bathroom smells and the other targeting the smells often found in open plan living. They can be purchased from Ocado, Oderase.co.uk and Amazon.
We also have a licensing and supply agreement with the Mayborn Group, together with whom we launched a new product under their Tommee Tippee brand, Nappy Odour Neutralising Spray.
We also have had a number of commercial engagements with multi-nationals that are progressing.
Q. How has your technology developed since you took part?
Our commercial focus is on improving air quality in household, pet and personal care products, paint and coatings, recycled plastics and air filters.
We have also been working in collaboration with universities and large pharmaceutical companies in exploring the potential of AqBit-enabled capsules and hydrogels in gene therapy, vaccine development and cancer treatment.
Q. What are you currently working on, and what can we expect to see from you next?
Through our collaboration with the University of Cambridge, we discovered that our AqBit technology inhibits the SARS-CoV-2 virus – the type which has caused the Covid-19 pandemic. This is significantly different from the harsh disinfectants typically used on hard surfaces because it is not harmful to human cells. By only targeting virus inhibition, it has the potential to be much safer to use around people in the air and on personal surfaces such as clothing and face masks
Q. What are your long-term ambitions?
Aqdot has the capability and ambition to grow into a multi-billion pound company with a number of business units focusing on the various application areas in which our technology can be used, while translating these into tangible consumer benefits that are life-changing for millions.
Q. What attracted you to take part in the Emerging Technologies Competition?
At the time, the Emerging Technologies Competition definitely stood out from the many other student-run or university-based competitions that we have participated in because of its affiliation with the Royal Society of Chemistry. This suited us perfectly as we are a Chemtech company. It also offered networking opportunities and mentorship from leaders across industries that are commercially relevant to us.
We received mentoring sessions on chemical regulations from Dr Keith Layden, then CTO from Croda International, and on technical and market needs from Dr Ian Churcher then from GSK. We also had commercial interactions with GSK and Proctor & Gamble which allowed us to gain an insight into the technical needs of the relevant industries.
For more information about the event go to www.rsc.org/competitions/emerging-technologies/