GINA SLOAN, 36
A day in the life of Gina Sloan involves a lot of stinky behavior. The Wake Forest University Ph.D. is the director of innovations at Microban International Inc., a Huntersville-based research organization specializing in odor-control science and creating products that kill bacteria. Sometimes, her expertise requires her and her colleagues to sign up to "be smelly" for a day while the others, well, sniff them.
It's all to further the odor-control research studied by Sloan's team at Microban, which was formed in 1984-The odor control arm of Microban focuses specifically on textiles. When you sweat, Sloan explains, you don't actually smell until the perspiration interacts with bacteria on your skin and clothes. Athletic apparel companies are particularly interested in controlling these odors.
Sloan's contributions in textile-odor control earned her a research service award from the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists in May. The group sets standards for testing fibers and fabrics for odor control, color fastness and other metrics.
"I was not expecting to be recognized in any way," says Sloan, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Western Carolina University. "It's all because of smelling armpits and stinky socks."
Sloan's team also works on innovative solutions for antimicrobials, a bacterium that can cause disease or fermentation, and is particularly dangerous in food and health care settings. In June, the innovation team's first antimicrobial product went to market through Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based PDI Healthcare Inc., which makes disinfectant wipes. Sloan started working on Sani-24 Germicidal Spray in 2012 to reduce excessive harmful bacteria on surfaces.
"It makes a big difference in food service and health care," Sloan says. "If you're in a hospital room and someone had MRSA [a skin infection] in the room before you, you are two times more likely to contract MRSA. The goal with this is to completely eliminate it, and we're continually running clinicals to be sure it's true."
The spray goes deeper than existing brands such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray, which clean surfaces of bacteria until the area is touched again. According to Sloan, Sani-24 should keep surfaces free of bacteria even after they are retouched.
Sani-24 led to the creation of the innovation department at Microban, which is owned by Memphis, Tenn.-based Barr Brands International Inc. Sloan started with the company as...