TiFiber Inc., which makes synthetic compounds to control dangerous microorganisms, will locate a pilot production facility and its future company headquarters in Fort Smith, Ark.
Currently based in Fayetteville, Ark., the company will establish the pilot program in 2015 to pursue regulatory certification for its licensed antimicrobial polymers (AMPs) with the Food and Drug Administration, according to a Dec. 18 news release.
Following FDA approval, TiFiber will ramp up production for manufacturers to use the material in personal care and medical products, among others. The company expects the Fort Smith facility to reach significant production levels in 2017 and create up to 100 jobs — many for scientists and engineers — by 2019.
TiFiber's materials, which can be incorporated into products as powders or nanofibrous membranes, add properties ranging from high-temperature stability to the nearly instantaneous killing of bacteria like E. coli and S. aureus, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureu (MRSA).
Another promising characteristic is that the potent compounds are safe for animal cells despite their ability to quickly kill bacteria and fungi, according to TiFiber.
The company also is working on some custom formulations of the AMPs with Bradford Soap Works, which is a manufacturer of liquid and bar soaps, lotions and bath accessories for several large packaged goods companies. Based in West Warwick, R.I., the 138-year-old company is testing TiFiber's materials in bar soaps as it looks to replace existing compounds, such as triclosan and triclocarban.
Triclosan is an active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps and body washes that has been shown in animal research to alter hormone regulation and could be contributing to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. While FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency study the long-term effects of triclosan, earlier this year Minnesota became the first state to ban it. Other states could follow.
In addition to soaps, potential applications for TiFiber's AMPs include dental cement, wound care dressings, biofilm protection of medical devices, cosmetic preservatives and textiles.
“TiFiber's business outlook is very positive as the company's AMP technology meets urgent market needs,” Calin Goforth, interim CEO, said in the release.
A portfolio company of VIC Technology Venture Development, TiFiber was founded in 2010 to commercialize a patented titanium dioxide-based nanofiber membrane for water and air filtration. The technology is licensed exclusively from the University of Arkansas.
In 2013, TiFiber licensed the technology for a family of antimicrobial polymers developed at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The company is in discussions with other large corporations besides Bradford Soap Works to become partners in further research and development.
So far, development work has been supported by private investment and economic development incentives from the state of Arkansas in the form of financing and tax credits.