Competitive Edge: Aequor Inc.

July 23, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Aequor’s founder, Cynthia Burzell, a divemaster and marine and medical microbiologist, was aware that every ship at sea was using hull paint containing toxic heavy metals (e.g., tributyl tin) that were killing marine ecosystems and organisms in ports. Observing that certain surfaces in the coral reef were free of barnacles, mussels, algae, she theorized that natural antifouling agents were present on those surfaces that impeded the foulers from attaching. She collected and evaluated surface materials that were free of foulers and discovered small molecules that are non-toxic and ‘green’ that rapidly disperse existing biofouling and prevent biofouler attachment for long periods of time.

Since this discovery, she sought to develop these green chemicals for uses in eco-friendly marine paint, water treatments, and process enhancers for aquaculture, algae cultivation and yeast fermentation systems.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Aequor is a woman-owned small business whose secret sauce is a large unencumbered portfolio of >70 proprietary small molecules that mimic Nature’s mechanism to remove biofilm and fouling in minutes and prevent their formation for days.

The portfolio is segmented by regulatory barrier: novel natural antimicrobials for use as antimicrobial, antibiofilm and antifouling agents in agro-industrial and consumer products; novel analogs earmarked as new drug candidates; and specialty chemicals (dispersants, cleaning agents) that are approved under the EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and available for immediate sale in commercial (ton) quantities. Aequor has also developed proprietary end-use products: water treatments, cleaning agents, and boosters for algae and yeast biomass.

Aequor’s service offerings include microbial and biofilm testing, training, consulting and subscription services for customers of its products.

Q: What stage of development are you?  Choose one:

Demonstration stage – proven at small, integrated scale, but not yet commercially available

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

Aequors green, non-toxic TSCA-approved ingredients can lower costs and improve the profitability of biofuel production. By dispersing clumping and killing bacteria that attack yeast, Aequors treatments boosts algae and yeast biomass by up to 40% in half the time, preclude the need for antibiotics during production, eliminate the need for biocide cleaning post-production, and reduce the costs of frequent system shut downs that incur labor, energy, water, and other costs.

Both algae and yeast are organisms that clump — an aggregation that blocks access to light and nutrients regardless of physical agitation methods, the adding of enzymes, use of genetically- engineered species, etc. Once clumped, the biomass has to be harvested, the equipment disinfected and re-seeded for the next batch. In the case of fermentation, antibiotics during the process remain in the residues used for animal feed, etc., which contributes to the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

Aequors portfolio of green small molecules are novel, biobased natural chemicals without toxicity that replace biocides in industrial processes. Particularly in the case of biomass production, Aequors customers seek to avoid the expense of costly capital equipment (e.g. biomass agitators, paddles, etc.), enzymes, additives and engineered algae and yeast strains and improve their biomass yields, while improving their environmental profiles, operational efficiencies, and profitability. Fermenters avoid the use of antibiotics that remain in by-products.

Aequor offers customers discounts on bulk orders, and works virtually to train the customers teams for each project. supporting sales with on-going microbial testing services. Aequor remains an agile enterprise, servicing a growing number of customers along the biocide value chain (chemical giants, product formulators, end-users) seeking to replace the harmful products they are currently using without sacrificing performance.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. Aequor won over $8 million value in validation testing since 2017 that demonstrated that the same unique chemicals could be used against biofilm and biofouling in various verticals, including to kill antimicrobial-resistant ‘Superbug’ threats.
  2. USDA validated the use of Aequor chemicals in surface cleaners. DOE validated algae and yeast biomass boosting in bioreactors. NASA validated that they were the only non-toxic treatment that eliminated the bacterial load in the water recycling/reuse system used on board the International Space Station. One dose removed the biofilm in minutes and remained active for over a year increasing the feasibility of long-duration manned Space travel. For this, Aequor was selected to represent American innovation at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the Hague and was honored by the Queen of the Netherlands.
  3. Aequor also organized the first all-woman panel at the 2019 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotech.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. Aequor was selected by the DOE to participate in its DISCOVR Consortium program to work with Sandia National Lab and the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation to quantify the impacts of the use of Aequor chemicals in open pond algae cultivation to reduce clumping, crashes and improve lipid content, etc. for biofuel.
  2. Aequor will undertake pilot projects with several private companies in the biofuel, water, and materials sectors that will further demonstrate the versatility of its unique chemicals as additives. NASA is scheduling an experiment to fly to the ISS, where biofilm forms thicker and faster than on Earth.
  3. Aequor will seek to close out its Series Seed at $1.7M, expand its management team and evaluate the timing of a Series A round. Aequor is positioned to initiate B2B sales of its algae and yeast boosters in the U.S. and Canada and seek licensees that will procure regulatory registrations for its top chemicals so that sales can be initiated in the EU.

Q: Where can I learn more about Aequor Inc.?

Click here to visit Aequor Inc. website.

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