Purdue startup wins recognition, investments to turn municipal wastewater algae into specialty chemicals

May 14, 2020
Gen3Bio’s 15-gallon mobile pilot plant is designed to operate on-site at algae producers.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- A Purdue University-affiliated startup focusing on technology to turn municipal wastewater algae into specialty chemicals has received its second financial award in just two weeks.

Gen3Bio Inc. has proprietary technology that redirects waste algae from an environmental hazard into profitable environmentally friendly products fully integrated into the circular economy. The startup has gained a $20,000 investment through the Elevate Nexus Regional Pre-Seed competition and a $20,000 pilot plant grant from The Water Council, with both announcements coming within weeks.

Algae is produced by wastewater treatment facilities to reduce discharged nutrients to prevent hazardous algae blooms, by industrial plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for reducing global warming and by algae harvesters. The algae is typically disposed of in a landfill at great capital and operational expense and subsequently releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Gen3Bio’s technology has identified a unique way to transform the waste algae into biobased specialty chemicals such as aquaculture fish food, succinic acid or biodegradable plastics.

“There is a way to repurpose this algae from costly waste to beneficial material. Our patented enzyme technology breaks open the algae and extracts the nutrients required to create specialty chemicals that create useful and environmentally beneficial products,” said Kelvin Okamoto, founder and chief executive officer of Gen3Bio. “I’m thrilled that our technology is being recognized at both a local and national level.”

These recent successes will allow the organization to scale its pilot program in preparation for full commercialization. Last year, Gen3Bio participated in The Water Council’s BREW accelerator. 

The two recent awards allow Gen3Bio to demonstrate its process on site at a Wisconsin wastewater treatment facility using its 15-gallon mobile pilot plant being optimized in Gen3Bio’s wet lab at The University of Toledo. The pilot plant scales the process demonstrated in the lab on tens of diverse algae samples.

Gen3Bio is based in the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana, and has received assistance from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Purdue’s Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus.

The technology also is patented and exclusively licensed from The University of Toledo.

Source: Purdue University