Senior biology major Ruchi Shah is the founder and CEO of Mosquitoes Be Gone LLC, but she has not even graduated yet.
In fact, she started developing her all-natural mosquito repellent when she was in high school.
The inspiration for her research came from a trip to India, where she saw long lines of people waiting for treatment of mosquito-related illnesses.
The liquid is meant to be sprayed on the skin to neutralize a nitrogen component in human sweat that makes mosquitoes more attracted to perspiration.
This past month, Shah was the winner of the College of Business Social Entrepreneurship Competition and received a $10,000 award.
The money will serve to simultaneously work on getting the product patented and getting the Institutional Review Board’s approval in order to work with human subjects for the final product testing.
“Right now we’re finalizing our packaging and our logo, and we’re picking bottles and so it’s all the fun aesthetic stuff that we get to do,” Shah said.
There are approximately 63 repellent manufacturing industries across the U.S. with $168 million in revenue, according to mosquito industry statistics on IBIS World.
The company is planning on selling products in smaller health food stores and farmer’s markets to build a consumer base before expanding to larger stores and pharmacies.
Long Island has dealt with mosquito-borne illnesses in the past. In 2014, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help tackle a 220 percent rise in Asian tiger mosquitoes that carry dengue fever.
Mosquitoes Be Gone is the only repellent on the market that works by neutralizing a nitrogen component in human sweat so that mosquitoes will be less attracted to the perspiration. The product also does not contain carcinogens like DEET. Shah said that many parents on Long Island are looking for safer alternatives to regular sprays.
“I believe Mosquitoes Be Gone is very relevant especially considering the various diseases carried and transmitted by mosquitoes,” Carrie Anne Miller, director of the Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, Program, said.
Mosquitoes kill 725,000 people every year in comparison to sharks, which kill 10 people annually, according to The Gates Foundation. The same study said that developing countries suffer the hardest from mosquito-borne illnesses.
“Not that many people know the dangers of mosquitoes,” Rohan Maini, an intern at Mosquitoes Be Gone, said. “It’s the most dangerous animal besides humans.”
The company’s goal is to use its profits in the U.S. to donate repellents to developing countries.
“For a lot of people, they don’t want intervention,” Shah said. “It’s not only about bringing the repellents, it’s about educating people because they need to understand that preventing against mosquito transmitted diseases is important.”
Analysts at Sandler Research predict the mosquito repellent market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.44 percent until 2019.
The company has not decided on the price for their product yet. However, Mosquitoes Be Gone will be sold at a slightly higher price than mainstream repellents, Shah said.
“Initially, we would be producing smaller quantities, making it at home and bottling it ourselves,” Shah said. “It’s probably going to be more costly for us so the prices would be a little bit higher so that we can make some profit to bring these repellents to people.”
If demand for Mosquitoes Be Gone increases, the price might be lowered to about $3 to $4 for a 4-ounce, 6-ounce or 8-ounce bottle, making it more affordable for people in the United States.
The popular spray Off!, a synthetic brand, is priced at about $6 for 4 ounces in Target. Currently, organic bug repellents cost about triple the predicted price of Mosquitoes Be Gone. For example, The Honest Company’s insect repellent is priced at about $13 for a 4-ounce bottle.
“That also means that the more bottles we sell here the more bottles we can bring abroad too, so that’s kind of the goal,” Shah said.
Manuel London, the dean of the College of Business at Stony Brook University, led the Social Entrepreneurship Competition.
“Mosquitoes Be Gone is a model for how we would like to see other businesses develop from student ideas,” London said. “It would be great if more students could follow Ruchi’s model to develop their ideas for a business from their innovations in STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math] fields.”
(Disclosure: Shah is a staff writer for The Statesman.)