News from the Region

News

Raleigh ag biotech startup led by Black cofounder & CEO pivots to fight pandemic

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were shortages of many critical resources, from personal protective equipment for medical personnel to hand sanitizer for anyone and everyone.

Michael Harrington, Ph.D., cofounder and chief executive officer of Genoverde Biosciences, Inc., an ag biotech company in Raleigh, recognized that his company had the materials and the means to fulfill an immediate need and help local communities.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Harrington and his team were conducting early studies in the chemical defenses of plants. Specifically, they were investigating how plants defend themselves and how genetics play a part. Like all of the company’s plant-cell-based studies, it was work that required sterile environments.

Genoverde controlled its sterile environment by producing its own sanitizer-type formula to clean its lab and tools.

A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO HIGH-RISK POPULATION

As the numbers of COVID-19 victims rose, Harrington started to wonder what he could do to help. He said that as a Black male, he took to heart how the COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting Black Americans.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to catch COVID-19, twice as likely to die from the virus and over four times as likely to be hospitalized with it.As the numbers of COVID-19 victims rose, Harrington started to wonder what he could do to help. He said that as a Black male, he took to heart how the COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting Black Americans.

Harrington decided Genoverde could use its sanitizing resources to manufacture hand sanitizer for communities in need. The company started donating hand sanitizer to schools, churches and apartment complexes in low-income areas of Duplin and Wayne counties.

SAFE AND EFFECTIVE FROM THE BEGINNING

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started to recall hand sanitizer products manufactured by several companies because regulators found that they contained dangerous levels of methanol, which can lead to blindness, hospitalization and even death.

As some of the dangerous options hit the market, Harrington said, “I felt the need even more to help low-income communities by providing sanitizer that is safe and inexpensive.”

Genoverde’s hand sanitizer has never contained methanol. “We purchase everything for our sanitizing ingredients and produce our products in ways that we know are safe,” said Harrington.

The company has expanded its pandemic-fighting products, which are sold business-to-business, from its initial gel-based hand sanitizer to include a foaming hand sanitizer solution and a multi-purpose surface cleaner. They all are made with ingredients approved by the FDA and the World Health Organization. The ingredients are proven to be effective against COVID-19 and safe to use on skin.

“Genoverde’s decision to focus its resources and capabilities on helping local communities during this pandemic is an uplifting story,” said Nandini Mendu, senior director of agriculture sector development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Harrington said the company is proud to offer its sanitizing solutions while its research on plant cell defense mechanisms moves forward. Using natural plant extracts, the company’s patent-pending formulations are being tested to prevent, treat and possibly cure some of the most common chronic and autoimmune diseases. The studies on how plant compounds might — and might not — inhibit virus activity, including COVID-19, will continue.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire