The Hawaii Research, Development and Production Facility

Mera Pharmaceuticals was created for a specific purpose: to tap the heretofore largely ignored resource of microalgae, long know to be a source of products having tremendous value but commercially inaccessible. The estimated 30,000 species of these plants represent a wealth of possibilities for products that address a broad variety of mankind’s needs.

The science behind the product

The foundation of Mera Pharmaceuticals’ business is science. Supported by some of the world’s most respected researchers, Mera Pharmaceuticals continues to develop technology and products at its R&D; oriented Production Facility in Kona, Hawaii. Highly skilled lab and production associates are aided by excellent research scientists. Our current focus is on optimizing the control and operation of our breakthrough technology, the MGM, to continue to increase our efficiencies.

The computer-controlled production systems can be “tuned” to produce the most desirable conditions not only for biomass growth of a wide variety of species, but to “encourage” them to generate higher concentrations of the products of greatest value. This is often done by first creating the conditions most favorable to growth, then changing the environment to a hostile one. That change triggers defensive genes that cause the alga to produce protective compounds. These are generally the ones of greatest value, as the protection they afford to the plants also often protect humans. Mera’s high level of control over growth conditions and extensive, automated record-keeping enables us to identify, then consistently reproduce, the optimum conditions for growth and production for virtually any species of microalgae.

The facility behind the technology

Mera Pharmaceuticals conducts the research and development to fill its product pipeline at our oceanfront facility located on the Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. We first opened as a small, one-acre facility in 1996, then completed a $3.0 million expansion covering more than three acres in May 1999. Our Kona facility has the systems and equipment that our scientists and production personnel need to handle the full range of tasks associated with our business, from developing and testing products at bench scale to conducting fully computer-controlled production. Manufacturing economics can be measured – not just estimated – on multiple products at once. As an example of the effectiveness of our Kona facility and research team, the work done there has enabled Mera to achieve a greater than a ten-fold increase in astaxanthin yield compared with our initial results, an efficiency improvement that helps us to achieve and preserve high margins for our astaxanthin product, the AstaFactor®.

Closed system technology

The cornerstone of Mera Pharmaceuticals technology is the patented and proprietary Mera Growth Module. Though simple in appearance, the MGM is the result of years of careful research and development by an interdisciplinary team that included members specialized in fluid dynamics, marine biology and microbiology. The Mera Growth Module was designed to be exceptionally efficient, easy to install and inexpensive to produce and operate. Through its refined design and careful selection of materials, the Mera Pharmaceuticals Growth Module is not only the largest, but also the most efficient commercial scale microalgae cultivation system available. At a time when the amount of capital needed to operate must be kept to a minimum, Mera Pharmaceuticals’s low cost, high efficiency platform technology gives it a strategic advantage over competitors.


Mera’s photobioreactor technology permits unmatched versatility in the range of organisms it can grow, offering advantages even over laboratory scale systems. While many of the known 30,000 species of microalgae can be cultured in the laboratory, fewer than ten have ever been produced at commercial scale. The Mera Growth Module creates the possibility of growing virtually any of the known species at industrial scale by providing precise control over the growing environment, specifically the optimal combination of the critical elements of light, temperature, pH and nutrients. Since commercial production of most species of microalgae has never before been accomplished (or even attempted), such versatility can be a key factor for Mera Pharmaceuticals’ success.

The Hawaii Research, Development and Production Facility also utilizes finishing ponds for organisms or products requiring a second growth stage, as is the case with astaxanthin), and it has full harvesting and processing capabilities as well. Only the final finishing operations, such as extraction and encapsulation, which operate best at high volumes, are contracted out to GMP compliant facilities on the U.S. Mainland.

Overall, the Kona Facility is well-suited for both optimization of its current astaxanthin production and for development of future products.