Arkansas Company Works to Improve Soap Products

A Northwest Arkansas company has reached a deal with a New Zealand university and its commercialization company, hoping to take its technological advances to improve the safety of antibacterial soaps.

Fayetteville-based TiFiber, Inc. announced its deal recently, and is now working with the University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Limited, the commercialization company.

The technology consists of a family of synthetic, antimicrobial polymers (AMPs) with potent, broad-spectrum activity toward bacteria and fungi.

An attractive characteristic of these new compounds first developed in New Zealand and being advanced by TiFiber is that they are biocompatible and safe for mammalian cells. AMP compounds quickly kill bacteria, including E. coli, S. epidemidis, P. aeruginosa and S. aureus (including MRSA), among others, and they contain no metals or halogens. Because AMP technology kills both physically and metabolically, there is a low probability of microorganisms forming resistance.

That’s important because there is growing concern in the U.S. about the use of antibacterial soaps, body washes and other products that contain triclosan or triclocarban. A large number of those soap products contain triclosan, and the state of Minnesota just this month banned the use of triclosan in products, effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

According to certain groups, triclosan has been shown in animal research to alter hormone regulation, and may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are collaborating to review the long-term effects of triclosan and update its assessment on human and environmental health.

A co-development agreement has been established with Rhode Island-based Bradford Soap Works for use of TiFiber’s AMP formulation in bar soap products. Bradford Soap Works is a leading manufacturer of bar soaps, and offers a range of liquid soaps, lotions, specialty chemicals, and bath accessories.

TiFiber and Bradford researchers are currently co-developing new soap formulations, using TiFiber’s AMP technology as a replacement for triclosan, triclocarban, and other existing antimicrobial compounds in products that Bradford manufactures.

“We are pleased to have one of the most established, innovative soap companies in the United States working with us to bring safe, effective antimicrobial products to market,” said Mike Rutherford, TiFiber’s chief scientist. “We believe we are just beginning to discover the major, positive impacts TiFiber’s antimicrobial polymers can have to improve the safety and efficacy of products all of us use every day. Bradford’s proactive, scientific approach is exactly what we were seeking in a development partner.”

"Bradford is very excited to partner with an innovative company like TiFiber, a company on the forefront of high-performance ingredients, “ said Chris Buckley, Bradford’s executive vice president of business development. “Antibacterial soaps represent a significant segment of the soap market. Bradford is working to ensure that our customers have a viable alternative to triclosan and triclocarban should the FDA rule against their usage.”

Potential uses of TiFiber’s AMP technology include soaps, wound care, medical devices, cosmetic preservatives, dental composites, textiles, surgical hand cleaners, antimicrobial plastic additives, and anti-static additive. Initial development work has been supported by a combination of private investment and economic development incentives from the state of Arkansas.

“TiFiber has a bright future and the likelihood of creating numerous science and engineering jobs in Arkansas,” said Calvin Goforth, interim CEO of TiFiber. “Financing and tax credits available from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, that are targeted to help create these types of jobs in Arkansas, played a critical role in the launch of TiFiber and the rapid progress the company has already made.”

TiFiber, Inc. is a VIC Technology Venture Development portfolio company.