Charlottesville Company with a Global Health Mission Addresses Safe Drinking Water Issues

A public benefit company with a global health mission that was inspired by a research project at the University of Virginia has opened a small production facility in Charlottesville.

MadiDrop PBC will produce ceramic water disinfection tablets called MadiDrops for people in developing countries who have poor access to clean drinking water.

The company grew out of a UVa project through a nonprofit organization called PureMadi.

The MadiDrops use silver to disinfect the water and can be used repeatedly for up to six months just by sitting in a household water storage container.

“We wanted to maximize production and distribution of MadiDrop, to make this technology available to the world at very low cost, so we developed this public-benefit company,” said James Smith, a UVa civil and environmental engineer who helped develop and test the MadiDrop. “The goal of MadiDrop PBC is to maximize health benefits, not to maximize profits.”

They were developed and tested by scientists and students at UVa, and the school will maintain ownership of the intellectual property rights for the technology.

Lab testing showed the tablet causes a 99.99-percent reduction in infectious water-borne bacteria, including cholera, e.Coli and other coliform bacteria as well as reducing the infectivity or pathogens like Giardia lamblia.

The ceramic tablets, which do not dissolve in the water like chemical tablets do, gradually release silver ions that disrupt cell division and thus kills pathogens.

A Virginia Innovation Grant was used to help move the technology out of the laband to the marketplace.

The company is expected to begin production in January and produce between 100,000 and 200,000 tablets in the first year, primarily for sale to non-governmental aid organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee, Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services.

Such entities could distribute the tablets as needed to developing counties, especially during times of crisis, such as a natural disaster.

The company expects to eventually build up to a production capacity of one to two million tablets per year and it will explore domestic applications for the technology too.

Madi is the Tshivenda South African word for water.

Source: Charlottesville Newsplex (October 27, 2015)