4 minutes with…Dr. Isaac Berzin, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Qualitas Health

December 21, 2014 |

BerzinTell us about your organization and it’s role in the advanced bioeconomy.

Qualitas Health develops nutrition ingredients based on microalgae using proprietary technologies for strain selection, sustainable algae farming, harvesting and oil processing. The first product, Almega PL, is already on the US market. It is an EPA-rich omega-3 oil, containing phospholipids and glycolipids to provide superior bioavailability.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

As the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Qualitas Health, I am focused on maintaining the company’s vision while developing the supporting technology and science platforms. Key activities include:
* Expansion of the market penetration of Almega PL into the large omega-3 market segment.
* Completion of other microalgae-based nutrition ingredients–like protein—to market, including regulatory and commercial frameworks.
* Expanding the technology platform: large-scale algae cultivation and processing.
* Expanding the scientific research: Clinical trials and science.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

The industry must show it can deliver consistent and economically viable products at scale. After big promises and heavy investment, many companies fell remarkably short of reaching their goals. We invested many years working under the radar to finish product development—through regulatory approvals and scale-up — before coming to the market.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

Advanced Bioeconomy is a new field of sustainable agriculture. As with any emerging technology, commercial success takes time. If I could change one thing, it would be there are multiple, large successful companies that have become an integral part of the industries they supply – evidence that the Advanced Bioeconomy has become the mainstream.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

When I was a researcher at MIT, my 8 year old daughter shared a factoid—that fossil fuels are not made out of dinosaurs, but rather from algae! That started my journey into Advanced Bioeconomy. Over a decade later, I remain captivated by microalgae and thoroughly convinced that they are THE sustainable solution for our future.

Where are you from? 

Born, raised and educated in Israel

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I went to study at the Ben-Gurion University in Southern Israel. At the time, this was the first university in Israel that offered a joint biotechnology engineering program. I thought, and still think, that combining these worlds of biology and technology is the key to make great things happen.

Who do you consider your mentors. What have you learned from them?

Prof. Jose Merchuk, Ben-Gurion University — Combining the worlds of Biology and Engineering as the key to progress.
Mrs. Shivta Wankart, Lab Technician, Ben-Gurion University — Listening to plants and learning how to keep them happy and productive.
Prof. Robert Langer, MIT — Doing well by doing good. Scientific merit could go hand in hand with a business merit, and influence people’s life.
Prof. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Columbia University — Out of the box thinking. The courage and commitment behind a technological innovation.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Scientific excellence is not enough. In bringing technology to reality, the long-term business aspect is the key to success. Products developed must have a compelling consumer demand and reason to be in the marketplace. It takes a significant investment in regulatory, scale-up and understanding the consumer in order to bring a great scientific solution to the greater good for society.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

I really do enjoy natural landscapes. It could be scuba-diving in the Red Sea or hiking in the forests and mountains of Vermont. The diversity of shapes and forms of life on our planet is breathtaking.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

1. How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O’Shei. Sounds useful.
2. The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker by Robert Mankoff. It is important to have a laugh, even in tough times. This book is also BIG, so it might become useful (heavy weapon, campfire material, etc).
3. The Bible. Divine wisdom in this situation cannot hurt.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Synopsis: Don is an Associate Professor of genetics who has a black-belt in Aikido and can cook a mean lobster. He also has Asperger syndrome. Don decides to find himself the perfect wife. The book is moving and hilarious for anyone who has ever tenaciously pursued his passion despite overwhelming challenges.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

My favorite city is Boston — where technology, innovation and business meet. It’s dynamic, academic and international. It’s not so big that you feel lost, but it definitely allows you to think big. The Bostonian attitude of “It was never done before – so what?” makes me feel at home.

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Category: Million Minds

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