Fighting next generation bacteria with algae

As bacteria become more and more resistant to traditional forms of medication, novel types of antibiotics need to be explored and harnessed. Work being done by Waterloo Professor Kirsten Müller and PhD student Sarah Ruffell, in collaboration with Algae Dynamics, is allowing researchers to harness their nutritional and antibacterial powers and bring these properties to market.

Currently antibiotics are manufactured or grown from fungi. Over the years, various superbugs have adapted to these medications and are becoming resistant to the antibiotics produced by these methods. This leaves the population vulnerable to infection.

Professor Müller and Algae Dynamics are growing algae to produce not only potentially life-changing antibacterial medicines, but also vitamins and omega fatty acids. Obtaining omega fatty acids from algae is an innovative and exciting project for Algae Dynamics. They will be commercializing one of the only forms of omega fatty acids not obtained from squeezing fish – very appealing to the vegan and health conscious market.

These algae will grow in the Algae Dynamics created BioSilo™ cultivation system, or what the team fondly refers to as their “perfect pond.” This completely sterile, closed pond system will be completed by the end of 2014 and the company hopes to have samples of their algae products available for initial sales by early 2015.

Algae growing team

From left to right: PhD student Sarah Ruffell, Richard Rusiniak (Algae Dynamics), Waterloo Professor Kirsten Müller, and Paul Ramsay (Algae Dynamics).

The team at Algae Dynamics feels their relationship with Waterloo has been “tremendous” and what they are learning at Waterloo creates the basis for how they develop their company and the products they offer. They see the work they do with Professor Muller as priceless for the business and invaluable to their reputation as it gives the company credibility with investors. The team at Algae Dynamics are eager to explore new relationships with Waterloo and are currently meeting with another potential collaboration partner, a chemistry professor, and recently hired a Waterloo grad. “We enjoy the freedom we’re allowed to work with Waterloo and all of the mutually beneficial ways that relationship can be expressed,” says Paul Ramsay, Algae Dynamics' Co-Founder and VP, Business Development.