FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Marshall University launches Progenesis Technologies, LLC
Huntington, W.Va. – Marshall University today announced establishment of the new biotech company Progenesis Technologies, LLC, the latest in a series of high-tech businesses entering the local economy after being created by university faculty.
The announcement took place during a news conference in the Maier Auditorium of the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center on Marshall’s Huntington campus.
Progenesis is the brainchild of Drs. Hongwei Yu and Richard Niles, two basic scientists in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University. Yu is a microbial geneticist who has the capacity to alter the genome of bacteria to make commercially important products. Niles is an accomplished researcher with past experience in biotech start-up development.
“The establishment of Progenesis Technologies is another excellent example of how Marshall University is advancing research-based economic development,” Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp said. “Our faculty and students are doing incredible research at Marshall. It is astounding to think how much more we could do with the creation of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) where we would have many more entrepreneurial researchers like Drs. Yu and Niles.”
Marshall currently is seeking funding to create an endowment for MIIR, a new research and development program that will focus on biotechnology, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology and niche areas of applied molecular research.
Yu said the process of discovery takes thousands of hours of research to understand how bacterial genes work together to benefit an organism.
“What I do is make certain mutations in their genome so that they begin to manufacture useful products for us,” Yu said.
In this case, alginate is the product. Normally harvested from large brown seaweed, alginate has multiple applications (for items like beer and cosmetics, and for wound healing and drug delivery) with a worldwide market exceeding $88 billion annually. Niles is helping Yu manage the multitude of business-related issues.
“Using bacteria to manufacture useful products has incredible potential,” Niles said, noting the business plan for Progenesis and future product lines. “With our current understanding of bacterial genomes and powerful gene manipulation techniques, we can produce new custom products such as biofuels, novel antibiotics and bacteria engineered to be super efficient at decontaminating waste products.”
Progenesis licensed technology from the University invented by Yu and his post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Dongru Qiu, in which bacteria is used in the biomanufacturing of alginate. The importance of this discovery is that it reduces the time and cost of production as well as environmental damage caused by the harvesting of seaweed. It also allows the production of new kinds of alginate, not produced by seaweed, which will expand the market applications for this biopolymer.
“Professors Yu and Niles have developed a breakthrough technology for alginate production which will dramatically expand the scope and breadth of the commercial application of these materials,” said John Maher, Ph.D., executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone. “The entry of Progenesis Technologies, LLC into the CAZ Incubator will help lower the barrier to the successful commercialization of this exciting technology, and the success of Progenesis will have a dramatic economic development impact on the region as they tackle this significant market opportunity.”
For more information about Progenesis Technologies, LLC, contact Niles at (304) 696-7323.