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While oils from microalgae have gained worldwide attention as renewable sources of biofuels, a special sugar from the red algae Porphyridium is being used for a very different purpose. These sugars have been shown to reduce tumors, fight bacteria and viruses, and lower cholesterol. Moreover, Porphyridium sugar is not toxic, which makes it a valuable candidate for further pharmacological developments, especially for topical applications. However, cost-effective quality-controlled production in large scale remains a major challenge to overcome. 

Sponsored by Red Micro Labs Inc. (San Antonio, TX), an investigation at the University of Texas Science and Technology Facility (UT-STF) at the Center for Electromechanics (CEM) is underway to define cost-effective pathways to grow and extract Porphyridium sugars on a commercial scale. Researchers at the UT-STF lab have developed a growth strategy that utilizes reclaimed nutrients to produce sugar-rich Porphyridium cultures at densities never before reported in literature. Staff at the on-site UT-STF Analytical Service Center routinely analyzes the algae and its products to provide immediate feedback to guide scale-up efforts on the way to commercial scale.

In Phase II, the project is transferring lessons learned in the lab to an outdoor production facility located on the JJ Pickle Research Campus. This vertical photobioreactor facility maintains 60,000L of microalgae in tightly controlled conditions to necessarily ensure quality control of the product. Under defined steady state culturing conditions, theses sugars known as sulfated polysaccharidescan represent up to 50% of the total biomass. Using high-efficiency UT-developed processing technologies, the sugars are extracted and purified from the algae.  

Dr. Connelly

For more information contact:

Dr. Rhykka Connelly


r.connelly@cem.utexas.edu
512-232-1633

 

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