Kim Lewis, newly appointed professor of biology at Northeastern University in Boston, has worked with scientists at M.I.T. and Tufts University to ease our germ-fearing minds. In their research, they demonstrate that covalent attachment of N-alkylated poly(4-vinylpyridine) (PVP) to glass surfaces can make surfaces permanently lethal to several types of bacteria on contact.
Lewis, former associate professor at Tufts' Biotechnology Center, along with MIT's Joerg C. Tiller, Chun-Jen (Jason) Liao, and Alexander M. Klibanov, have found a fairly narrow range of N-alkylated PVP compositions that allow the polymers to retain their bacteria-killing ability when coated on dry surfaces. These are the first engineered surfaces that have been shown to kill airborne microbes in the absence of any liquid medium.