Bio-based agent destroys Zika virus, coronaviruses and enteroviruses – revolutionary innovation to be launched commercially next year

31.3.2022 / Artikkeli
The effect is based on microbial activity and raw materials from the forest. Photo: Vilma Issakainen
The effect is based on microbial activity and raw materials from the forest. Photo: Vilma Issakainen

Natural Antivirals is a bio-based raw material derived from microbes in Finnish forest nature and hoped to enter commercial production next year.

Research shows that in the near future, Zika virus, coronaviruses and enteroviruses can be combated with a bio-based raw material from Finnish forest nature. The material is antiviral; in other words, it destroys viruses on surfaces and on skin. Its effect is based on microbial activity and raw materials from the forest.

The innovation is the result of collaboration between Natural Resources Institute Finland and the University of Jyväskylä and is expected to have great market potential.

We are particularly interested in Japan and South Korea.

The material can be used as an ingredient in antiviral cosmetics, which are the subject of great interest globally, as well as in cleaning agents. Commercial production is expected to begin next year.

For cosmetics applications, the most promising market is in Asia.

“We are particularly interested in Japan and South Korea. The demand for cosmetics is already high in these countries and continues to grow,” says Riikka Linnakoski, Group Manager and Project Manager at Natural Resources Institute Finland; her research areas are forest health and biodiversity.

Antiviral products are a sustainable solution

Riikka Linnakoski says that during a pandemic, safe and effective solutions are needed to combat viruses.

“Antiviral products are associated with the need to find sustainable, bio-based solutions that do not increase the chemical burden on the environment,” Linnakoski says.

"We are particularly interested in Japan and South Korea. The demand for cosmetics is already high in these countries and continues to grow," Riikka Linnakoski, Group Manager at Natural Resources Institute Finland. Erkki Oksanen / Natural Resources Institute Finland
“We are particularly interested in Japan and South Korea. The demand for cosmetics is already high in these countries and continues to grow,” Riikka Linnakoski, Group Manager at Natural Resources Institute Finland. Erkki Oksanen / Natural Resources Institute Finland

The new material can replace alcohol-based products which, according to Linnakoski, are not necessarily effective against all viruses.

“Alcohol-based cleaning agents irritate and damage skin, especially in long-term use, and they also destroy the beneficial bacteria found on skin.”

When the virus comes into contact with our product, it loses its capability of infecting human cells.

At the University of Jyväskylä, the studies conducted by Professor Varpu Marjomäki and her virology team have shown that the innovation works by directly destroying the infectiousness of the virus.

“When the virus comes into contact with our product, it loses its capability of infecting human cells. As the result of various natural processes, the product also contains substances that are beneficial to the skin, so that it has a broad spectrum of uses,” Linnakoski says.

Linnakoski does not provide more details on the discovery, such as what type of forests the raw materials are found in.

Forest industry sidestreams attract interest

The team is also studying the possibility of utilizing forest industry sidestreams, such as sawdust or pulp.

Another object of study are the face masks so important during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can be made more eco-friendly thanks to biodegradable, wood-based innovations.

Linnakoski stresses the importance of collaboration and broad-based know-how for the project.

“Developing this type of product requires know-how in different fields, such as research, business activity and legislation.”

The Natural Antivirals project has received EUR 660,000 in funding from Business Finland.

English translation: Heli Mäntyranta

Tero Karjalainen

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