Production of Valuable Substances from Microalgae

The value of microalgae lies in their unique chemical compounds. Just as in other plants or other microbes, the complex mixture of compounds in an alga may have value, making the entire organism useful as a product. This is common for nutraceuticals (e.g. Gingko biloba). In many cases, however, the valuable substance is a single compound that must be identified, then separated or extracted from the remainder of the biomass to be delivered most effectively (e.g. penicillin).

The first step in deriving a product from microalgae – whether the product is the entire organism or an extract from it – is to produce the microalgae themselves. This has been a major impediment to developing products derived from microalgae. Commercial and industrial researchers tried for decades to overcome this obstacle, but without success. Even though many potentially valuable products were identified in microalgae, it was simply not feasible to grow most species at a large enough scale to supply the anticipated demand for those products.

That changed with the development of the MGM, Mera’s industrial scale photobioreactors. Mera Pharmaceuticals’ commercial microalgae production systems work at large scale for a large variety of species. Our proprietary production technologies, systems and processes provide the closed, controlled environment needed to optimize microalgae growth and produce a high quality product.

Our technology is centered on the Mera Growth Module (MGM), a closed-system photobioreactor. The MGM utilizes high-level computer controls to monitor, maintain and adjust the growing environment for all critical conditions, such as temperature, light and nutrient levels. This level of control allows maintenance of conditions that promote the most desirable rate of growth. This platform technology is highly versatile. The unique requirements of each microalgal species (except, perhaps, for a few extremophile species) can be met simply by programming the controls on the MGM.

Recent excitement about high-value products from agricultural biotechnology underestimates the importance of this control. Genetically engineered corn, soybeans, or other crops, thought to be future sources of valuable products, will still be grown outdoors, where they are subject to the vagaries of sunlight, rainfall levels, temperature, and nutrient availability. This substantial variability in growth parameters will result in variability of yield and quality of the desired product. In comparison, the degree of control available in the MGM means that it can produce, and consistently reproduce, many of these desired substances in a more reliable manner.