Find a treasure at the bottom of the sea remind us the end of a Jule Vernes tale. Instead, for the Italian researcher Guido Emiliani has been the starting point for a company.
Micoperi Blue Growth (MBG), a Ravenna-based company specialising in offshore services to the oil industry and other marine businesses, is one of several companies around the world working in the field almost inexhaustible of microalgae supplies, the microscopic photosynthetic plants that scientists believe can be developed as compounds for human use.
Micoperi, from agriculture to pharmacy
MBG’s research is aimed at four main areas. As Mr Emiliani point out: “We are using novel strains of algae to produce microalgae, from which it will be possible to develop active ingredients for a variety of applications.” In agriculture, the company is looking to produce ecologically sensitive products to be used as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, chemical products. In the pharmaceutical and diagnostics field, MBG is aiming to develop drugs and screening applications such as those used to diagnose cancer. The microalgae will also be developed as nutraceuticals such as vitamins and as a way to regenerate damaged cartilage.
“The process starts by going into the sea and getting samples of water. We select the most interesting microalgae and these are reproduced in our laboratories at Ortona,” Mr Emiliani explains.
The joint venture with Intesa San Paolo
MBG, decided to invest in Mr Emiliani’s research last year. Together, they set up a company, with Micoperi owning 70pc of the shares and Mr Emiliani the rest.
MBG is one of 400 companies selected by Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s leading bank, as part of a project called Ecco la Mia Impresa (This is My Company). The project aims to showcase and grow outstanding Italian companies. A research site for MBG has been opened at Micoperi’s campus at Ortona in Abruzzo and a team of 10 scientists recruited to develop the applications. The facility was built by Micoperi and financed by Intesa Sanpaolo. “The bank has been a valuable partner and is keen to back innovative projects,” Mr Emiliani says.
Sustainability, traceability and pureness
The processes developed by MBG have created a sustainable production of biomass from microalgae. They are grown industrially to guarantee traceability and purity. Mr Emiliani highlights the importance of having an industrial process that is traceable and pure. “It means we are producing active ingredients which can be submitted to regulators for approval and become marketable products,” he says.
MBG has already signed agreements with companies operating in the food, farming and pharmaceutical industries to test the active ingredients. It is also planning to apply for patents to cover the new compounds and the technology used to develop them.