Intellectual Property

Photodynamic antimicrobial paints & varnishes

Photodynamic antimicrobial paints & varnishes

Researchers at the QUB have developed methods to incorporate sensitiser compounds into paints, varnishes and lacquers which render surfaces antimicrobial, under normal ambient lighting conditions.



Provides a constant, persistent, enduring antimicrobial activity with no toxicity to personnel Does not require moisture on the surface to act as a release mechanism for incorporated antibacterial agents as in other technologies Does not induce bacterial resistance spectrum of activity is very broad, including activity against MRSA, and other problem organisms



In the hospital sector, hospital acquired infections (HAI) are a major concern, with HAI deaths running into several thousands a year in the UK alone. Evidence is emerging that organisms such as MRSA can survive on the fabric of a building. This is a significant discovery as ceilings and walls in medical environments tend to be cleaned less frequently than floors. A wide variety of businesses such as direct food handling, pharmaceutical manufacture, hospitals, leisure centres and the animal handling industry require a high level of cleanliness to ensure that micro-organisms do not multiply and contaminate products or effect human health. Surfaces must not only be easy to clean, and where necessary, to disinfect, but also prevent the build-up of dirt, shedding of particles and condensation.


Researchers at QUB have invented a unique and innovative surface coating technology that uses photosensitising molecules, of the same class used in photodynamic therapy for the treatment of various cancers. When exposed to visible light, these molecules generate reactive oxygen species, predominantly singlet oxygen, which is indiscriminately cytotoxic. The paint is aimed at killing all bacteria, viruses and fungi which may come in contact with a treated hospital surface – for example, the surface of a wall, floor, door push plate or hospital bed handle. The process is catalytic, so the sensitiser can give a prolonged protection, unlike conventional chemical-incorporation strategies. The paints deliver an effective means to both prevent and control hospital-associated infection which is simple to apply, enduring, and cost-effective. Importantly, the technology removes the element of ‘human error or inefficiency’ from cleaning and disinfection.


Market Opportunity

In the US, the total revenue from the antimicrobial paints and coatings market (specifically for lowering infection or contamination) was $175.4 million in 2005 and is estimated to grow to $488.9 million in 2012, demonstrating a high growth opportunity. In the US paints and coatings market, the two market segments showing the largest increase in sales are the medical devices and the antimicrobial agent coatings markets which is the core target market for the QUB Photodynamic antimicrobial paints & varnishes technology


Sean Gorman, David Jones, Colin McCoy, Steven Bell

Patent Status

This technology is the subject of an international patent application with International Publication Number WO2007088392


Project part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.


We have access to a range of potential funding mechanisms to support your business engage and exploit this IP including.

boosting-business Boosting Business through R&D is designed to help you ensure your business remains competitive and grows its market share. With support, you can invest in new products, services and processes, use design to improve your business performance, gain a better understanding of the technical, legislative and intellectual property issues you may face and access collaborative networks to access new business opportunities that might otherwise be beyond your reach.
ktp Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are based on partnerships between academic groups and companies who need access to skills and knowledge in order to innovate. The academic and industrial partners jointly devise and manage a two or three year programme to achieve the advances the company needs. This programme of work is carried out in the company by a KTP Associate and the resulting relationship can be very challenging and rewarding to all parties
qub-innovation-fund The Queen's University Belfast Innovation Fund (QUBIF) is a £1 million venture capital fund, set-up to invest in post Proof of Concept, pre-commercialisation spin-out companies. Funding rounds will be typically in the range of £50k to £200k and investments must be strongly related to the QUB research base.

Project Number

P44371 POC28A
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