Triton’s wild-type algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an ideal host to produce mammalian proteins, monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and hormones. Click to enlarge photo.

Triton Algae Innovations, a San Diego-based startup company focused on new food and nutritional products derived from algae, has announced that it has achieved Independent Conclusion of GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status for its wild-type algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (c. reinhardtii). After a rigorous evaluation of a comprehensive dossier of scientific safety studies and characterization data, an independent panel of experts determined this algae powder to be safe for its intended use as an ingredient in various foods and beverages, such as snack or nutritional bars, cereals, yogurts, fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and sports or energy drinks.

“Our focus is on bringing safe and healthy new products to consumers, who are increasingly interested in the nutritional content and sustainability of the foods they eat,” said Xun Wang, President and CEO of Triton. “We are excited to have this external scientific validation, which opens up multiple potential commercial pathways for our algae, whether as a specialized nutritional supplement product, or as a source of healthy plant-based protein in various foods.”

Triton’s non-GM and vegan algae powder is rich in omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, Vitamin A/betacarotene, and iron, and is an excellent source of highly nutritious protein. This has rendered it of growing interest to major food companies in search of non-traditional sources of protein which can be produced sustainably and affordably.

Dr. Jon Hansen has joined Triton as chief engineering officer.

Triton has also developed a proprietary process in which the same algae is used to express a variety of different proteins which occur naturally in the breast milk of all mammals, including humans. To date, there has existed no commercially viable source of these proteins. One of these proteins, osteopontin (OPN), has been found in animal trials to reduce occurrences of intestinal distress and fever, as well as to have a positive impact on cognitive development.

Dr. Wang noted that the timing of this GRAS conclusion is important, in that the market is being reconfigured by emerging consumer trends toward more science-based and sustainably-produced food and nutritional products. “More and more we are hearing and seeing from established players in the food space that there is growing customer demand for a scientific underpinning to their food sources. This is evident in the increasing interest in vegetarian and vegan options, and in the rapidly expanding demand for non-traditional sources of protein.”

Dr. Wang said that Triton plans to introduce its algae into the consumer market in 2018.

In another step toward commercialization, Triton has announced the hiring of a widely-respected algae industry veteran and fermentation expert, Dr. Jon Hansen, to serve as the company’s chief engineering officer.

Dr. Hansen has over 27 years of deep and broad experience in microbial biotechnology, much of that leading the development and commercialization of micro-algae technologies for OmegaTech, Martek BioSciences, DSM, and Heliae. Dr. Hansen helped to design multiple pilot and manufacturing facilities, and has in-depth commercial experience at 12 manufacturing plants across seven countries. He is a co-inventor on over 25 patent families and is a pioneer of a wide range of successful commercial algal products and technologies, including the first and most successful microbial DHA and EPA technologies found in food, animal nutrition, nutritional supplements and nearly all US infant formula products.

“We consider it a real coup to be able to land Jon here at Triton,” said Dr. Wang. “With his considerable experience in this field, he was in great demand across the algae industry, so we’re thrilled to have him on board with us as Triton moves forward into what is going to be a very active commercial phase.”