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Can you imagine a sustainable, virus-killing face mask? Your giving has the power to advance health solutions just like this one.

The Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation prides itself on supporting researchers who push the limits, break down barriers, and for whom innovation is not just a buzzword. Recently, Dr John Frampton, Associate Professor at the School of Biomedical Engineering at Dalhousie University and Canada Research Chair in Cellular, Biomaterial and Matrix Interaction, exemplified these characteristics when he and his team worked to develop a sustainable, virus-killing medical mask.

The project, entitled Innovations in Sustainable PPE Fabric: Local Solutions for a Global Issue, was born out of the global mask shortage and supply-chain disruption during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and was funded by the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition. Dr Frampton’s team sought to develop a prototype textile that could be used to locally manufacture personal protective equipment such as surgical masks and respirators to deal with shortfalls in global supply chains.

On a typical day, Dr Frampton and his team work to develop new materials that can be used in healthcare applications—for example, designing scaffolds to aid in regenerating damaged tissue and serve as model systems for understanding disease. The goal for this particular project was to develop a fibre-based mask that was environmentally friendly, easily produced, effective, and wearable by health care professionals—and the public—for extended periods of time.

Not only is the mask they developed environmentally-friendly, due to the ability of the polymer fibres to dissolve when wet (no more disposable masks littering the sidewalks!), but it was designed with long-wear comfort in mind. Collaboration was key to this endeavour and this research team worked with NSCAD partners Jennifer Green and Gary Markle, who crafted and manufactured the prototype. The team’s filtration testing took place in the lab of Dr Jung Song Kim at the Dalhousie Health and Environment Research Centre (HERC) Lab. Dalhousie researcher, Dr Craig McCormick, contributed expertise that allowed the team to test the ability to neutralize viruses with the material in a laboratory setting. The team hopes that one day a version of these masks can be mass-produced easily and inexpensively, right here in Nova Scotia.

“Without the $50,000 of funding from the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, and support from DMRF donors, we wouldn’t have been able to take on a project like this – especially during a global pandemic,” says Dr Frampton.

This years’ Molly Appeal, DMRF’s annual campaign, is raising funds for biomaterials research, like the work Dr Frampton is doing. The biomaterials field has rapidly grown in recent years and is instrumental in developing innovative solutions to serious and long-term health challenges from osteoarthritis to cancer. Biomaterials is a new frontier for health research and medical technology and touches many important healthcare-related areas, and beyond.

John Frampton
Dr. John Frampton

Molly is fundraising for a Biomaterials Innovation Centre at Dalhousie

Today, Dalhousie University has the opportunity to make even greater strides in this ground-breaking field of health research. Your gift to this year’s DMRF Molly Appeal will propel this research forward with the creation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art research lab. The Biomaterials Innovation Centre will mobilize Dalhousie’s successes to date and turn them into life-changing health treatments for the Maritimes and beyond.