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GlycoSurf Finalizes Exclusive License Agreement for Bio-Inspired Surfactant

A University of Arizona (UA) startup, has entered into a licensing agreement for synthesis of biosurfactants which could replace oil-based chemicals.

GlycoSurf team member Cliff Coss, Ph.D. works with the company's test reactor at the UA Tech Park. Credit: Balfour Walker Photography

This technology was developed by researchers at the University of Arizona. Jeanne E. Pemberton and Robin Polt, of the UA College of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Raina M. Maier of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science; and Cliff Coss, a researcher at the university, collaborated to develop this technology.

The startup company, GlycoSurf, specializes in producing environmentally friendly surfactants, which are 'green,' biodegradeable and non-toxic. These biosurfactants can be used instead of petroleum-based surfactants.

Surfactants and biosurfactants find use in a wide range of industries, such as personal care products and cosmetics. They are also widely used for cleaning oil spills and in other such environmental applications.

The GlycoSurf team states that the biosurfactants that are currently manufactured are very expensive, have low purity and generally require intensive labor.

The team at GlycoSurf collaborated with the Tech Launch Arizona (TLA) at UA to bring the product to the marketplace. TLA endeavors to create an impact, both economically and socially, by bringing to the marketplace inventions of scientists, researchers, and students at UA.

GlycoSurf has recruited Chett Boxley, Ph.D., MBA, as its CEO.

Initially, we're going to focus on the cosmeceutical space. That includes products like anti-aging creams and sunscreens.

We produce sugar-based, bio-inspired surfactants, which are more than 95 percent pure (often 99 percent pure), yet our process is significantly more cost-effective and scalable for large production volumes than current methods.

Chett Boxley, CEO, Glycosurf

From 2013, The GlycoSurf researchers collaborated with the TLA's technology transfer team on the factors involved in patenting and disclosure of the product. Following this, proof-of-concept funding was used to develop the product strategy, in order to ready this innovative early-stage technology for the market. GlycoSurf has also received business intelligence from TLA in order to sharpen the company's strategy.

In order to test and establish the validoty of its manufacturing process, GlycoSurf required laboratory facilities for its 7-foot reactor. Tech Parks Arizona, a unit of TLA, operates the UA Tech Park, and the researchers conducted their operations at this park. Here, they utilized customized laboratory space at the UA Tech Park for advancing their production process. They also utilized the services available at the Arizona Center for Innovation, which is an incubator. GlycoSurf has graduated from the incubator program and also advanced its business strategy.

GlycoSurf researcher and founder Pemberton's enthusiasm for the venture and for TLA is palpable:

"Given the worldwide push for greener alternatives for the broad surfactant market, we are truly excited by the commercial potential of our platform technology for producing glycolipid surfactants. Although it probably goes without saying, TLA has been instrumental in helping us move this technology forward toward commercialization. They're a tremendous resource at the UA. We wouldn't be as far along as we are if it hadn't been for their help."

David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, comments:

"GlycoSurf is a compelling new company with a strong team that will be commercializing an exciting technology. It has been a wonderful experience for TLA people and resources to work with this team and it is a shining example of value TLA provides to technologies created by UA's outstanding researchers."

According to studies, 13 million tons of surfactants were produced globally in 2008. This market is anticipated to generate revenues exceeding $41 billion by 2018, and from then on it is expected to grow by 4.5% annually. Within the larger surfactants market, a huge growth opportunity is seen for biosurfactants. GlycoSurf intends to utilize this opportunity with the assistance of the UA and TLA.

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