The Innovators: IVP And Medistar Corp. CEO Monzer Hourani
In this series, Bisnow highlights people and companies pushing the commercial real estate industry forward in myriad ways. Click here to read Q&As with all the innovators Bisnow has interviewed so far.
Not many CEOs of development firms can claim to also be scientific inventors, but Medistar Corp. CEO Monzer Hourani can.
With a background in physics, mathematics and engineering, Hourani has worked for decades as a commercial real estate developer specializing in healthcare projects. Over the course of his career, he has also invented proprietary technology to clean up oil spills and a brace system to protect buildings against hurricane-force winds.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Hourani saw another application for his skills. Suspecting that Covid-19 was primarily an airborne disease, Hourani decided to begin work on a new kind of heated air filtration system that could destroy the virus.
“There was no leadership anywhere — only direct and collateral damage from Covid-19,” Hourani told Bisnow. “On March 27, 2020, I asked ‘How can we catch and kill this coronavirus instantly while it is in the air?’ God answered my question with inspiration for the heated filter technology of IVP.”
Partnering with multiple academic institutions to develop the technology, Hourani founded Integrated Viral Protection and aggressively began to research, build and test prototypes of IVP. Within five months, Hourani had a product that could eliminate 99.999% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Hourani studied physics and mathematics in Lebanon before moving to the U.S., where he earned additional degrees in structural engineering and architectural studies. In 1971, Hourani founded M. Hourani and Associates Consulting Engineers, providing structural engineering services for hundreds of buildings around the U.S. and overseas.
As the Texas Medical Center in Houston grew into the world’s largest medical district, M. Hourani and Associates started working on a growing number of complex medical projects. That ultimately led to Hourani founding Medistar Corp., a healthcare-focused real estate development company, in 1974.
Hourani’s IVP technology uses a specialized heated filter made of nickel foam mesh that can kill SARS-CoV-2 immediately on contact. Testing of IVP also found that the filter can instantly destroy anthrax spores and other airborne pathogens.
To date, no other commercially available technology can kill the Covid-19 virus immediately and with such high efficacy, Hourani says. For that reason, IVP has already been rolled out in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, hotels and convention centers, primarily in Texas, but also in a growing number of other states.
Within mere months, Hourani helped design, develop and commercially distribute a new kind of heated air filtration device to kill the virus that causes Covid-19. His efforts have earned him the title of a Bisnow Innovator.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Bisnow: Why did you decide to create your own solution to Covid-19?
Hourani: In March 2020, as lives and livelihoods were being lost all around the world and the U.S. was in its first wave of Covid-19, no vaccines were in development and everyone (including the World Health Organization) thought Covid-19 was primarily on surfaces.
There was no leadership anywhere — only direct and collateral damage from Covid-19. On March 27, 2020, I asked “How can we catch and kill this coronavirus instantly while it is in the air?” God answered my question with inspiration for the heated filter technology of IVP.
Bisnow: On a basic level, how does the technology work?
Hourani: IVP is able to catch and kill viruses and microbes as small as 100 nanometers or as large as 1,000 nanometers. The filter uses principles of superconductivity to attract and incinerate airborne pathogens, including anthrax spores, legionella bacteria and allergens. The filter heats the air to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, yet the nickel foam mesh has no significant impact on the ambient air temperature.
Bisnow: The IVP air heated filtration technology was developed in partnership with IVP co-founder Dr. Garrett Peel and multiple academic institutions. How did that partnership happen, and who led the majority of the research and development?
Hourani: From Friday, March 27, 2020, I worked nonstop for four days, along with a couple of engineers and subcontractors to help me quickly test initial concepts. Heat kills all biological threats given enough time, but 350 degrees Fahrenheit would be needed to kill SARS-CoV-2 instantly on contact.
It’s critically important to not heat the ambient air, so I needed collaborators in superconductivity. I found Dr. Paul Chu and Dr. Zhifeng Ren, my co-inventor, at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston, and they joined me in my work immediately. A week later, I invited Texas A&M Vice Chancellor Kathy Banks and her team of professors at the Texas Engineering Experiment Station to join us for continued R&D and testing.
In June, I took the prototype IVP heated nickel mesh filter to be tested at the Galveston National Laboratory at University of Texas Medical Branch under the direction of Dr. Slobodan Paessler. There it resulted in 99.9% elimination of aerosolized SARS-CoV-2, instantly in a single pass.
This was the very first test of aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, and the results were replicated with airborne anthrax spores. In July, the results were published in a white paper in Science magazine.
Bisnow: How long did the conceptualization, research, development and approval of IVP take, from start to finish?
Hourani: From inception on March 27 to initial deployment on Aug. 19, at Slidell Independent School District in North Texas, the timeline for basic science, R&D, prototyping and into production was just under five months total. This was extremely aggressive because we are literally fighting to save lives and livelihoods that are lost every day.
Also in this first five months were the creation of initial supply chain and manufacturing relationships, along with peer reviews by MIT and Argonne National Laboratory, and regulatory reviews and approvals by the FDA and CDC, which define IVP as a Type 2 medical device.
Bisnow: As a trained engineer, how did your expertise contribute to the development of IVP?
Hourani: Before I came to the University of Texas at Austin in 1965 to earn degrees in architecture and structural engineering, I was French-educated and already had a deep background in physics and mathematics. IVP is the result of physics. This is a real-world solution that catches and kills all airborne threats, including pathogens, allergens and particulate, based on real science, real data and continuous third-party validation in the laboratory and in the field.
As a structural engineer, I designed for the worst conditions. With IVP, we already had the worst condition — so that’s why I designed this to catch and instantly kill airborne pathogens, not to just “purify the air.” Unless you kill it, it stays in the air for up to 17 hours with the ability for HVAC to help it move from room to room.
Bisnow: What institutions/clients are now using IVP? Do you know how many have been deployed?
Hourani: Our IVP mobile units and HVAC-integrated heated filters have been deployed nationally in more than 40 hospitals and two major convention centers. It is in more than 150 schools in Texas and Florida. Two major hotel chains use it, as well as early childhood development centers, restaurants, banks, religious buildings and correctional facilities. There also are installations in 15 nursing homes in Texas, as well as over 10 municipal buildings, and last weekend alone IVP deployed 120 mobile units in a major destination spa in Nevada.
Bisnow: There are existing HVAC filtration systems that already promise to dramatically reduce viruses in the air. Why didn’t you just use one of those technologies in your buildings?
Hourani: The IVP filter differs from all others because it traps and kills the virus and its variants — instantly in a single pass — and it has been peer-reviewed by the Argonne National Laboratory, MIT and the EPA. No other Covid-19 innovation on the market does; IVP is unique. The filter helps prepare us for the next pandemic while creating a safe indoor environment for us to return to work and breathe safely.
Bisnow: What lessons did you learn from developing IVP, and are there other technology-based projects that you are thinking of taking on next?
Hourani: Before IVP, I invented an oil skimmer to clean up after oil spills, and a hurricane brace system to protect buildings against Category 4 and 5 force winds. The core IVP heated filter technology is adaptable to many applications, from very small to very large, and those are progressing well in R&D now. Looking ahead, I have been working on an idea to combat pollution and that will be my next focus.