Triton Algae Raises $5M to Bring First Product to Market Next Year

9/4/13Follow @bvbigelow

In the spring of 2012, when Jason Pyle announced his departure from San Diego’s Sapphire Energy, he told me he already was deeply involved with a new enterprise that was in stealth mode. Much of the work was being done in San Diego, he said, but nothing beyond that.

Today the wraps are coming off of Triton Algae Innovations; a synthetic biology startup based in San Diego that says it has closed on $5 million in Series A funding, according to a statement from the company.

The investment in Triton came from Heliae Technology Holdings, part of an industrial biotechnology company based in Gilbert, AZ, that raised $28.4 million in July to support the operation of its first commercial algae production facility. The Arizona plant is expected to begin operating this month, “supplying high value personal care and nutraceutical products to existing customers,” according to a Heliae press release in July.

Whether Heliae also intends to make algae-based products for Triton is unclear, as Pyle was unavailable for comment late yesterday. Triton co-founder Stephen Mayfield, who is director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology at UC San Diego (and who also was a scientific co-founder of Sapphire Energy), is in Tokyo this week and could not be reached for comment.

Triton says it has developed a synthetic biology platform that also uses algae to produce “high value” proteins. The company says it already is producing complex proteins, enzymes, and other biologics that are cost-effective and can be immediately used in agricultural, pharmaceutical, and other retail markets.

Mayfield, an expert in the genetics of algae, explained a few years ago that algae are ideal organisms for producing biotech drugs because they are relatively easy to grow, especially in comparison to other organisms like bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells that are used to make many biotechnology drugs.

The concept is similar for both: After identifying and isolating the gene that directs cellular machinery to produce a particular therapeutic protein or antibody, scientists insert … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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