“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. Photo: courtesy of the Seattle Times

“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. Photo: courtesy of the Seattle Times

Seattle, WA-based Matrix Genetics, a biotechnology company focused on producing safe and sustainable commodities derived from cyanobacteria, has announced what they say is a technology breakthrough allowing for rapid and efficient production of pigments and proteins in Spirulina.

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.

The company claims that 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 says they have broken through this bottleneck by being the first to invent rapid and efficient genetic methods for modifying Spirulina.

“Genetic engineering is the key technology for the manufacture of almost all valuable products by industrial micoorganisms,” said Jim Roberts, Chief Scientific Officer at Matrix Genetics. “Matrix has discovered how to bring this technology to Spirulina. 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.”

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, according to the company.

Matrix’s discovery also opens the door to 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, they claim.

“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.”