he Algem®, Algenuity’s lab-scale algal photobioreactor, has been recognized by many algae researchers worldwide as the finest commercially-available system of its kind. However, one thing that most people don’t know about it is the level of quality control testing that is required for each unit.
“When we first set about designing the system” said Dr. Andrew Spicer, CEO of Algenuity, “we wanted a platform that could cut though the noise associated with biological experiments to uncover the biology hidden beneath. And you can’t do that unless you have perfectly matched conditions, not only between the two reactors of an individual Algem system, but also with every other Algem system out there.”
The breakthrough solution for this dilemma came with the simple realization that if you’re building a system to grow algae, the best way to test it is with live algae. Algenuity thus employs a standardized growth experiment as the final step in the quality control process, in what they call the “Soak Test.” During the Soak Test, a carefully controlled photoautotrophic seed line is used to inoculate a large working culture which is split into four Algem flasks: two for the Algem to be tested, and two for the Golden Master Reference Unit, which all Algems are pitted against before they are allowed to be sold.
Senior Scientist Dr. Henry Taunt, who designed the testing regime, explains the process: “After considerable refinement we arrived at an experimental protocol that produces extremely reproducible growth profiles. By simultaneously growing a split culture on the test and reference Algem we are able to guarantee the fidelity of each new Algem, not only between its own reactors, but also to the reference unit. As all Algems are tested against the same master reference unit, they are essentially all compared to each other, meaning that a system in San Diego will give exactly the same data as one in London or Tokyo.
“Once the growth experiment is complete we run the data through a number of statistical tests looking for any error between the four sets of data. The Soak Test process has enabled us to not only validate to ourselves and our customers the reproducibility of our system, but has also allowed for constant iterative improvements in Algem design.”
Once all the tests have been run, a report is compiled containing the growth data and statistical tests, an example of which is shown above. (16287A and B are Soak Test cultures grown on the Algenuity master reference Algem instrument, and 16389A and B were the same cultures grown in an actual product certified by this testing). All systems must meet Algenuity’s strict parameters to be subsequently released into the market. Algenuity, as a world expert in algal biology and providing Algal Strain Discovery and Development, Strain Engineering, and Strain Analytics, has the unique capability to provide this highest-possible level of final testing for its Algem products.