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Biomol Eng. 2003 Jul;20(4-6):459-66.

Commercial development of microalgal biotechnology: from the test tube to the marketplace.

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  • 1Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc., 73-4460 Queen Kaahumanu Hwy., Suite 110, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA.


While humans have taken limited advantage of natural populations of microalgae for centuries (Nostoc in Asia and Spirulina in Africa and North America for sustenance), it is only recently that we have come to realize the potential of microalgal biotechnology. Microalgal biotechnology has the potential to produce a vast array of products including foodstuffs, industrial chemicals, compounds with therapeutic applications and bioremediation solutions from a virtually untapped source. From an industrial (i.e. commercial) perspective, the goal of microalgal biotechnology is to make money by developing marketable products. For such a business to succeed the following steps must be taken: identify a desirable metabolite and a microalga that produces and accumulates the desired metabolite, establish a large-scale production process for the desired metabolite, and market the desired metabolite. So far, the commercial achievements of microalgal biotechnology have been modest. Microalgae that produce dozens of desirable metabolites have been identified. Aided by high throughput screening technology even more leads will become available. However, the successes in large-scale production and product marketing have been few. We will discuss those achievements and difficulties from the industrial point of view by considering examples from industry, specially our own experience at Mera Pharmaceuticals.

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