[USA] Matrix Genetics (“Matrix”), a biotechnology company focused on producing safe and sustainable commodities derived from cyanobacteria (a blue-green algae), announced today a technology breakthrough that allows for rapid and efficient production of pigments and proteins in Spirulina, a species of cyanobacteria. This discovery will offer the food industry a new, scalable and sustainable source of safe ingredients that meet the increasing demands of consumers.
Spirulina are cultivated worldwide for use as a human and animal food supplement due to their high protein content. They are also a rich source of B vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Yet global production of Spirulina has been held back by the lack of efficient genetic engineering methods that have been crucial in increasing the availability of other global sources of protein such as soy, canola and corn.
Matrix has broken through this bottleneck by being the first to invent rapid and efficient genetic methods for modifying Spirulina. These methods have been long sought after by the algal industry, but have proven elusive.
“Genetic engineering is the key technology for the manufacture of almost all valuable products by industrial micoorganisms. Matrix has finally discovered how to bring this technology to Spirulina,” said Jim Roberts, Chief Scientific Officer at Matrix Genetics. “Our technology allows us to stably and precisely introduce new genes into the Spirulina genome, resulting in increased amounts of valuable proteins, new biochemical pathways and improved production traits.”
For the first time, global production of Spirulina with greatly increased amounts of these proteins and pigments is a reality. One of the first applications of Matrix’s new technology is a strain of Spirulina that can double the yield of phycocyanin, a natural antioxidant that is used as a nutritional supplement as well as a blue pigment for the food, cosmetic and medical industries. The market for phycocyanin is predicted to double over the next three years, and Matrix’s new technology is well positioned to help industry meet this increased demand.
Matrix’s discovery opens the door to not only increasing the amounts of the products currently derived from Spirulina (for example, phycocyanin) but also for using Spirulina as a photosynthetic workhorse to cheaply produce a large variety of commercially valuable proteins and pigments. Spirulina is also an ideal organism for renewable production of biofuels.
“We’ve been able to unlock the potential of Spirulina to meet the needs of multi-billion dollar markets in several industries,” said Margaret McCormick, CEO of Matrix Genetics. “The ability to quickly and easily improve the performance of Spirulina while using existing cultivation techniques removes a major bottleneck in the commercial success of cyanobacteria.”