New biotech patent makes Spirulina microalgae into a specialty chemical factory

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

New biotech patent makes Spirulina microalgae into a specialty chemical factory
Lumen Bioscience announced today that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent for its gene editing and insertion technology that makes the microorganism into a platform that can readily produce biologics, proteins, and other various molecules at commercial scale—some of which are in line to be used in cosmetics and personal care manufacturing.

When working with microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and algae, rather than using plant breeding to changes traits, scientists adjust and edit genes directly. ​But what works well for one organism isn’t necessarily applicable to the next organism.

Algae and beauty

“Spirulina has resisted all attempts to enhance its biology using biotechnology tools that are widely used in drug development for other biological systems such as yeast and CHO,” ​explains today’s media release from Lumen Bioscience.

Nonetheless, Spirulina microalgae is widely cultivated (“the only microorganism farmed at commercial scale worldwide,” ​according to Lumen Bioscience) and used around the world as a food and nutritional supplement.

And it’s already a popular ingredient in both topical and ingestible beauty products, like Kahina Giving Beauty’s Brightening Serum and Hum’s Raw Beauty Green Superfood Powder.

Advancing biotechnology

Lumen Bioscience is a Seattle, Washington – based biotech company, founded just last year. The company exists to make “oral antibody therapeutics, recombinant vaccines and other high-value biologics products,” ​using Spirulina, according to it About Us page on LinkedIn.

The new patent is part of the process to develop those products as is Lumen’s first output: the blue food pigment C-phycocyanin.

In announcing receipt of US patent 10,131,870, Targeted Mutagenesis in Spirulina, Lumen also notes that along the way to its goal of developing new antibiotics and such the company will work further with food and with beauty as well. “Lumen itself is using this new technology to develop high-value proteins and other molecules for foods, cosmetics, medicine, and industry,” ​explains the media release.

IP and biology

“This patent forms the cornerstone of Lumen’s comprehensive intellectual property strategy,” ​acknowledges Brian Finrow, CEO of Lumen, in remarks to the press. “Aside from Columbia University’s patents in mammalian cell culture, and the University of Washington’s ‘Hall’ patents in yeast, it’s hard to think of another case where such broad protection was obtained for a novel platform biology,” ​adds Finrow.

“We look forward to working with our current collaborators and new potential licensees to explore the broad potential of this technology,” ​he says.

Jim Roberts, Lumen’s CSO and a co-inventor on the new patent, affirms the company’s interest in monetizing and sharing the Spirulina engineering tech: “The history of the biotechnology industry can be written as the story of new platform organisms–––from E. coli to yeast to mammaliancells–––that suddenly enable products that were previously impractical or impossible. Our discovery of Spirulina genetic engineering is the next chapter in that book,” ​says Roberts. “Our goal is to make this breakthrough technology as widely available as possible, through interactions, licenses and collaborations with companies and academic researchers worldwide.”



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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