Deakin makes hand sanitiser to keep emergency workers in safe hands

Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) scientists are making hand sanitiser to ensure Victoria’s emergency service workers do not run out, amid supply shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Several hundreds of litres of the lab-made sanitiser, created according to World Health Organisation (WHO) specifications, will provide a vital stockpile for the frontline workers most in need of the product, including police and firefighters.

A first for a university in Victoria, the research project is led by IFM materials scientist Associate Professor Alessandra Sutti in collaboration with industry partner HeiQ Australia.

“Hand sanitiser is the first line of defence in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and we are proud to be donating some to Victorian emergency services organisations,” Associate Professor Sutti said.

“In times like these, hand sanitiser and its ingredients are precious and rare – people stockpile it, it becomes very expensive and our emergency services are at risk of being left without.”

Associate Professor Sutti felt compelled to make IFM’s supplies and expertise available to protect emergency services workers after seeing similar efforts from universities around the world to help stop the pandemic’s spread.

“I thought, we can do that too,” Professor Sutti said.

“It’s important that we make available whatever we can spare to ensure our frontline emergency responders aren’t left without and put at risk unnecessarily.

“The team at IFM dug into our stocks, and our pockets, to see what we could forego for the benefit of the community. The bonus is that we have the skills and means to formulate to the World Health Organisation’s specific criteria – so we were able to make the first batch quickly.”

HeiQ Australia has provided assistance to Associate Professor Sutti’s team through contribution of equipment, supplies and production support that’s helped the team to make larger quantities of the sanitiser.

Dr Murray Height, CEO of HeiQ Australia and an Adjunct Professor at IFM, is pleased to support the efforts of the Deakin team.

“We are proud to assist Associate Professor Sutti’s efforts. As an industrial partner located on campus at Deakin, HeiQ Australia is ideally placed to support the efforts of the IFM team to help protect our emergency workers as they continue their vital work in the community in these challenging times,” Dr Height said.

So far, the team at IFM has made between 200,000 and 300,000 doses of hand-sanitiser, with plans to produce more if required.

“Scientists are driven to make a positive difference to the world, and this project has been no exception,” Associate Professor Sutti said.

“It is something that we have the skills and capacity to do at a very local level. It’s a privilege to do our bit to help the people really putting themselves at risk of infection every day when they head to work to serve their communities, and this is IFM’s way of serving the community too.”