Inventing a more germ-repellent future ft. Dr. Soleymani and Dr. Didar


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Necessity is the mother of invention — and after a global health crisis, better ways to curb the spread of germs are definitely necessary. This is what led Dr. Leyla Soleymani and Dr. Tohid Didar to invent RepelWrap, a surface that repels certain viruses and bacteria. Through their research and innovation, learn how business can benefit from the latest advancements of science.

Plus, see how new ways of thinking about the future can make it a more productive space for all.

Key Takeaways:

[0:31] During the pandemic, one of our daily objectives has become minimizing our exposure to viruses and bacteria. The COVID crisis catalyzed the efforts of Dr. Leyla Soleymani and Dr. Tohid Didar. They knew they had something great with their RepelWrap, and now were presented with a real opportunity to make a societal impact with it.

[5:12] The focus on nanotechnology in Leyla and Tohid’s research include SLIPS, slippery liquid-infused porous substances, which are smooth and self-healing. Their inspiration was the pitcher plant, which can lure and trap their prey using their modified leaves and wax that makes the surface very smooth and slippery. This is a perfect example of biomimicry, the production of systems or structures that copy features we find in nature, and using what we learn from the natural world to bring it into innovation and modern technology.

[8:42] The implementation of biological features that we can borrow from the natural world could be endless. For example, Velcro was inspired by the spiny hooks on the Burdock plant, and swimsuits after microscopic scales on shark skin.

[9:48] In the lab, Leyla and Tohid had the help of a talented grad student who concluded that the RepelWrap needed another layer of structure in order to achieve oil repellency. Then, once they had these three layers, they needed to see how it would perform in the lab when tested, but the challenge was finding the lab space and resources in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

[11:56] After adapting their research to real-life applications against MRSA and E. coli, the team got more and more proof that it worked, and that became more appealing to others. To prove that their product would be effective against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive, but, they will run the test again and again, as this is crucial to how we accumulate data and fact-based knowledge.

[16:48] Tohid and Leyla explain why communication in science is critical. There is a captive audience in almost every taxi ride or public interaction, where someone can learn more about the innovation that universities are doing, instead of just thinking the focus is solely on putting out academic papers.

[18:35] The process of scientific discovery, like the process of bringing a product to market, requires testing and iteration. Business has a lot to gain from science, not just in terms of innovation and invention, but learning new ways of thinking and how we see the world and the dispassionate gathering of evidence to provide a product's efficacy.

[19:39] There is a very interesting possibility in materials science — a bacterium working like a construction team. It may sound like science fiction, but this is what makes the future very exciting.

[20:11] Leyla and Tohid hope to get RepelWrap in high touch areas in hospitals such as elevator buttons and the railings of patient beds to protect patients and health care workers. Just remember, the next surface you may touch may be revolutionary.


  • “We need to do more work on saying that all universities are trying to innovate, but so it’s not just about publishing papers.” - Tohid
  • “When we consider the efficiency and complexity of nature, the implementation of biologic features into manufactured and architecture of materials could be endless.” - Jo
  • “I’ve never worked on something like this where there is so much not only scientific interest, but public interest.” - Leyla
  • “It’s the time to make an impact and show that years of investment and science is now paying off.” - Leyla
  • “All of a sudden, this was no longer a nice fancy coating, but a must have thing that people wanted to put on their packages and elevator button and hospital surfaces.” - Leyla

Continue on your journey:


Scientific Reports

Dr. Leyla Soleymani

Dr. Tohid Didar