MORRISVILLE, Pa.—Gelest Inc. is significantly expanding its production capabilities and capacity for its Biosafe antimicrobials to match surging demand from its customers, especially health care professionals.
It recently received Environmental Protection Agency approval for a new and improved manufacturing process for the antimicrobials, which set the stage for the expansion, according to Shiming Wo, Gelest vice president and general manager for life science.
Biosafe antimicrobials are pesticides used on treated articles, Wo said.
"They preserve treated articles by preventing the growth of stain and odor causing bacteria, fungi, mold and mildew," he said. "The antimicrobials are based on silane quaternary ammonium salt technology, and they are highly effective and safe to use."
He said they inhibit microorganism growth "by physically puncturing the microbe's cell membrane and destroying the microbes on contact. This mode of action has significantly less tendency for microbes to develop resistance through adaption and mutation."
Gelest works closely with the EPA and Federal Drug Administration, Wo said, and the firm has obtained approval for using the antimicrobials in food contact applications. Biosafe HM4100 Antimicrobial is the only silane quaternary in the market that is suitable for use with plastic resins, he added.
Biosafe antimicrobials can be found in a wide range of applications in a variety of markets, including health care, medical, hospitality, food services, personal care, fabric care, home, car and a number of others, he said.
Demand for the antimicrobials has been growing significantly, especially over the last couple of years, Wo said, and Gelest has responded by boosting its investment in product and application development.
"We are working very closely with our partners on developing new offerings," he said. "We launched Certainty Smartboost Laundry Additive with Careismatic last year, and Quatkeeper Foodservice and Medical Towels with National Wiper Alliance this year. The global pandemic accelerated the market adoption of our offerings. The market demand for Biosafe remains strong as the world is entering the return-to-work phase."
Because of the pandemic, the Morrisville-based company said demand for sanitizers, disinfectants and antimicrobials has skyrocketed. Suppliers have found ways to expand their production capabilities despite global raw material supply shortages.
"At Gelest, we invest heavily in innovation and technology," Wo said. "When the demand for Biosafe surged, our technology and engineering teams worked together and successfully developed new processes with significantly shorter cycle time. The reduced cycle time is what enabled us to expand our manufacturing capacity and ramp up production, quickly responding to the market demand."
With EPA approval in hand, the firm has been able to move rapidly.
"Our manufacturing units were designed and built for multi-purpose uses," he said. "That provides us with the flexibility to respond quickly to increasing customer demands.
"We, of course, continue to make strategic investments in upgrading existing equipment and adding new equipment to meet the long-term needs of our customers."
Gelest, founded in 1990, is a manufacturer of silicones, organosilanes, metal-organics and specialty monomer technology, and supplies products for high-growth material science intensive applications such as medical devices, life sciences, microelectronics, personal care and specialty coatings.
The firm became a group company of Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. Oct. 1 after it was sold to Mitsubishi Chemical America Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of MCC, which is headquartered in Tokyo.
"We fully expect that MCC's operating resources and customer network will enhance our ability to bring Gelest's cutting-edge technologies to market and accelerate the development of new customer solutions," Wo said.
He added that Gelest has a strong product portfolio and "we are well-positioned to grow regardless of the market conditions. We invest heavily in new product development to enable our customer technology. We are having another strong year and continue to see growth across markets."
Wo praised the efforts put forth by Gelest's work force, who he said has "done a fantastic job during this year with COVID."
He also heaped praise on the firm's suppliers—including Berry Plastics, Graham Packaging and Solvay.
"When they learned we were using their materials to manufacture end products mainly for frontline health care professionals fighting COVID-19, they responded with great support and worked creatively to ensure faster turnaround and on-time delivery," Wo said.