Students Luis Contreras and Virkamal Dhaliwal with their chemistry professor Lori Robins (left to right) in a lab at the University of Washington Bothell. They helped Briotech prove its product is effective in destroying prions, the abnormal proteins that cause dementia disorders. (Contributed photo)

How UW Bothell is helping fuel biotech in region

By Patricia Guthrie

For The Herald Business Journal

BOTHELL — Jeff Williams thought it was natural to bring in academia to assist in research for Briotech, the Woodinville biomedical company.

“I realized there was a tremendous resource here in the middle of our biotech corridor — the Bothell campus of the University of Washington,” said Williams, a retired Michigan State University microbiology professor and chief science officer at Briotech, Inc.

The private company has developed a transportable manufacturing process to make a decontamination solution of hypochlorous acid, or HOCL. Its mission is to stop the spread of infectious diseases in hospitals, water systems and other settings by using the liquid as a cleanser, fogger, wound healer and hand sanitizer, among other uses.

To test its formula, the company pitted its BrioHOCL solution against prions, one of the toughest pathogens known and the cause of fatal brain-wasting diseases in humans, cattle and other animals.

The National Institutes of Health conducted the study at its Allergy and Infectious Disease lab in Hamilton, Montana.

Researchers determined BrioHOCL eliminated prions ability to replicate in brain tissue samples and in experiments with mice. It also found the formula capable of killing prions on surgical equipment known to transmit Crueutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a fatal dementia, to patients.

Prions under scrutiny for a possible connection to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s were also inactivated by the Briotech solution, the NIH said.

UW Bothell students Luis Contresas and Virkamal Dhaliwai worked for Briotech as seniors, analyzing the purity of the BrioHOCL formula and how long it remains effective. They’ve since graduated. The students names appear on the NIH findings published in the journal PLOS Pathogens as part of the research team.

“I was very fascinated on ‘the how’ of the experiments,” said Contresas, 23. “And, honestly I still can’t wrap my head around the paper. I come from a small town in Mexico. I never expected to go this far, to even graduate from college.”

Lori Robins, associate biochemistry professor in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics at UW Bothell, said she and her students met weekly with Williams to review what they’d learned.

“It’s been a really exciting process for me,” Robins said. “It helped us all grow as scientists and we learned things we would not have been exposed to.”

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