News | Oct 8, 2018

Bacteria can ruin paint and cosmetics but traditional preservatives are toxic. This company produced a safe alternative.

Theriax LLC has partnered with the Air Force to advance the second generation of anti-microbial formulations for water-based chemistries

News Article Image of Bacteria can ruin paint and cosmetics but traditional preservatives are toxic. This company produced a safe alternative.

Bruce Salter and Shelle McDonald, research scientists at the Air Force Civil Engineering Center, work on non-toxic, anti-microbial compounds at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

courtesy Theriax

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Steve Ribich, 51, is an entrepreneurial Australian living here with his family, but unlike most Americans, he can pronounce methylisothiazolinone.

Ribich is founder and CEO of Theriax, a young company hoping to relieve growing regulatory pressure on the paint and cosmetics industries being ordered to reduce usage of methylisothiazolinone and other toxic preservatives used to keep bacteria from growing in cans of spray paint and bottles of shampoo.

And recently, Ribich signed two patent license agreements with the Air Force–an important step towards his goal.

Why? Because Dr. Jeff Owens, a senior Air Force chemist working on a project at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, invented an anti-microbial technology, but for a different purpose.

“Originally, we started working on paints and coatings that would deactivate biological and chemical weapons,” Owens said. “It turns out it also has some interesting non-military applications.”

That’s where Ribich comes in.

“After several years of collaborative research with the Air Force, we’ve been able to develop the second generation of antimicrobial formulations for water-based products,” he said, detailing plans to supply industry with a suite of products that will keep bacteria from spoiling paint, cosmetics, and polymer binders, without affecting color or consistency (no lumpy paint allowed).

“We’re not free to discuss our client’s names,” he said. “But these are players in billion dollar industries and they all have the same problem, bacteria spoilage. So, they need a preservative and our safe formulations use chemistries that aren’t irritants, endocrine disruptors, or carcinogenic.”

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. Joan Wu-Singel, a senior technology manager at TechLink, helped Theriax’s navigation of the patent licensing process, which included negotiating the patent licenses and submitting a commercialization plan.

“The strength of the Air Force’s technology has earned it several patents,” she said. “It’ll be a win for everyone when it becomes the industry standard.”

There’s still work to be done, and testing continues on Theriax’s products. For example, how does the paint hold up against scrubbing and buffing? Can the anti-microbial formulation be used in a clear coat varnish, can it be used in a spray gun applied paint?

But following the patent license agreement is product registration.

“Regulatory compliance is our next task at hand,” Ribich said. “Here in the U.S. and in the EU.”

Contact: Steve Ribich,

Headshot Image of Joan Wu-Singel, CLP

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