Sterling International gets grant for repellent

The Spokesman Review
By Bert Caldwell, Staff writer

SPOKANE VALLEY – A Spokane Valley company that built its business on attracting bugs has received a $730,000 grant to find ways of repelling them.
The money from the U.S. Department of Defense will allow Sterling International to expand on preliminary development, also government-funded, of a devide that will discourage insects from harassing soldiers, said spokeswoman Stephanie Herrmann.

She said the goal is a wearable “Personal Insect Repellent Device” treated with chemicals that will remain effective for a month.

During Phase 1 of the research, she said, company scientists led by Qing-he Zhang identified natural repellents, in part by seeing how antennae removed from mosquitoes and other insects responded when exposed to the materials.

Phase 2 will test various compounds to find the most effective and long-lasting, she said. At the end of two years, she added, Sterling must deliver prototypes the military can field test.

DEET, the repellent of choice now, Herrmann said, can wash off, and questions have been raised about rare health problems.

She said Sterling will add a third Ph.D.-level scientist – Zhang has a doctorate in chemical ecology – to its seven-person research staff.

Sterling President Rod Schneidmiller said an effective repellent device will have obvious commercial value and could help reduce the rate of disease transmitted by insects.

Schneidmiller founded Sterling in 1982. The company made its name with Rescue insect traps like those found in backyards everwhere.