OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU spinoff company makes first shipment of specialty chemical

12/19/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. – AGAE Technologies LLC, a new Corvallis biotechnology company based on research at Oregon State University, has shipped its first product – a specialty chemical for use in environmental remediation, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other industries.

The company opened its doors in May 2011 and today employs five people. AGAE Technologies licensed the patented technology from OSU and has conducted its own research on cost-effective, high-yield processes for manufacturing a compound known as a rhamnolipid biosurfactant.

Biosurfactants are a novel group of microbial compounds, which are made by living cells and can be used in personal and household products, paints and manufacturing processes. AGAE Technologies’ compounds “are nontoxic, environmentally benign and completely biodegradable,” said company CEO Harrison Parks. “The increasing use of biosurfactants is being driven by technology breakthroughs, environmental awareness and tightening of regulations regarding chemical surfactants.” 

AGAE is one of the latest companies to commercialize OSU research. In 2011, the university increased licensing revenues by 63 percent with 101 “active” technology licenses from mass spectrometry to mold and yeast inhibitors. "We are taking steps to help accelerate innovation through our partnerships with start ups like AGAE, as well as with established companies,” said Ron Adams, OSU executive associate vice president for research. “AGAE's rapid move to sales is an example of the results of our effort."

Xihou Yin is president and founder of AGAE Technologies and senior research faculty member in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “Rhamnolipids were discovered about 60 years ago,” Yin said. “The real bottleneck to replacing synthetic chemicals with biosurfactants like rhamnolipids is the high cost of production. Using renewable low-cost sources of ingredients, we are optimistic about further increasing the yields, reducing costs by scaling up production and promoting the global applications of these very eco-friendly biosurfactant molecules.”

In addition to Parks, who has over 25 years of international technology sales and marketing experience, AGAE also has hired Martha Cone to oversee technical operations and to manage customer technical engagement.

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Editor’s Note: See OSU's Partnering with Industry website for a more technical version of this story: http://oregonstate.edu/research/partnering/osu-spinoff-company-makes-first-shipment-rhamnolipid-biosurfactants. A digital image of Xihou Yin is available online: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/6538760107/.