"Bacteria has been growing. It's been sneaking up on us all the time," said Solomon Rosenblatt, who is armed with an arsenal like no other in the war against COVID-19.
On his 91st birthday, we met the storied chemist in his Chestnut Hill backyard with a smorgasbord of inventions lined up on the patio table.
"Being a Depression baby, I developed a certain mental attitude of survival," he said.
One of his creations stands out during this unique period of time. He unraveled a small black cloth that could revolutionize the way we approach cleanliness in the future.
Cleverly called, "IoWipe," the product is a sponge cloth infused with the chemical element, iodine.
"Iodine is nature's antimicrobial," Rosenblatt said. He cites that bacteria has not yet learned how to fight against the strength of this essential mineral.
His discovery was decades in the making. The biomedical expert started as a rocket propellant engineer, eventually studying the curious complications of sending a man to the moon. He became a power and life support chemist for the Apollo program in the 1960s.
"What happens if we bring bacteria to the moon?" he questioned. Introducing foreign bacteria to a new environment is not unlike the current pandemic facing the world half a century later.
It was around this time when he explored the practical benefits of iodine.
Historically, iodine had a reputation of toxicity. However, by releasing small doses over extended periods of time, Rosenblatt could harness its powers without such consequence.
His studies graduated over time, eventually tackling the issue of protecting slow-healing wounds from voracious bacteria. Thus, in the 1990s, he invented an antimicrobial bandage known as IoPlex. This would evolve into the iodine-infused sanitizing wipe by the year 2020.
"I was not surprised that there would be a virus or a microbe that we are not familiar with," Rosenblatt said in relation to the COVID-19 crisis. Although the novel virus is easily spread, it is not invulnerable.
"It is not bio resistant. It is easily killed," he said.
Naturally, his IoWipe has become a popular weapon to fight the virus. It lasts roughly 30 days and can reach up to 600 uses.
His family created a startup in order to sell these wipes to the community. In the last few weeks, they have sold thousands. Such high demand has limited sales to two per customer.
Rosenblatt's daughter, Elise Rivers, and her husband, Max, have taken the reins of the business that started in their basement. They hope to find a partner that can aid in producing IoWipes on a larger scale for more widespread availability.
Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Elise holds her father on top of the world.
"He is the most creative, determined person I've ever met," she said. "I saw those values my whole life and I saw him working hard his whole life."
To learn more about the product, visit their website.
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