Editor’s note: Michael Dean is a founding partner at AgFunder, which is AFN’s parent company.
A couple of years ago the World Health Organization released data showing that not only are we living longer than we ever have before, but for the first time in human history, there are more people aged over 65 than those under five. With that number set to grow by two to three times over the next few decades, we need to find ways to live long, active, and healthy lives, while being able to thwart chronic and infectious diseases.
In seeking practical solutions to enabling effective management of daily stresses and anxiety, maintaining and even enhancing our natural immune responses, and ultimately to leading happy, dynamic, and fulfilled lifestyles, we repeatedly turn to nature for new medicinal knowledge and for novel and improved remedies.
We clearly need broad and easy access to a significantly larger number of affordable, highly functional, and effective ingredients both in our food and available as supplements and therapeutics.
These include natural, plant-derived molecules that can prevent or treat the range of chronic and metabolic diseases that many of us will experience at some point in our lives.
To this end, AgFunder portfolio company Purissima intends to fundamentally change the way we tap into nature’s diversity and produce and consume sustainable and natural plant-based functional ingredients.
APIs from algae
San Francisco-based Purissima has developed a unique platform to produce active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) grade molecules through fermentation of heterotrophic microalgae. The Purissima team believes their fermentation platform will enable a consistent, scalable, and reliable supply of high-quality functional molecules in commercial volumes, at a fraction of current production times and costs.
George Rudenko (CEO) and Rob Evans (chief business officer) co-founded Purissima in 2017 with a vision of efficiently producing safe and natural wellness ingredients and bioactives by fusing the largely untapped genetic makeup of thousands of plants with modern technological processes.
George is a recognized expert in using single-celled microalgae to produce oils for food, fuel, and industrial chemical applications. He refined this expertise while working with Rob at the biofuels and food ingredients unicorn Solazyme, a trailblazer in the fermentation of microalgae at large scale.
Purissima is hiring a fermentation engineer. Check out the job description here
The longevity of an estimated 15,000 medicinal plants is threatened by climate change, putting at risk the long-term supply of compounds from this valuable source of therapeutics. George and Rob knew that preserving what evolution brought to the planet over millions of years would be important in addressing the needs of young, middle aged, and elderly people.
“We evolve algae, essentially a single-cell plant, to more efficiently produce the same active ingredients,” George says. A key component of their technology is the ability to cost-effectively eliminate variables inherent in the production of specialized plant compounds through traditional agricultural means, or from plants that are difficult or impossible to source.
Purissima is positioned as a B2B healthy ingredient brand that will supply both novel functional ingredients and APIs to leading CPG product formulators, drug developers, and dietary supplement providers.
Broad applications of the technology
Purissima is targeting multiple classes of compounds, including plant lipids that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer properties. Many of these compounds are only found in regions with ultra-high biodiversity, such as tropical rainforests.
Unfortunately, increasing human economic activity threatens these plant species. The need to protect the environment while developing alternative sources for these highly bioactive compounds is vital. “Imagine preserving and replicating the production of [those] valuable wellness ingredients in a one-week production cycle,” Rob says.
Through their technology, they will also be able to express some of the most talked-about medicinal ingredients today: cannabinoids. They have already demonstrated production of one of the most medically interesting cannabinoids — cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) alongside several ‘minor’ cannabinoids with diverse and very promising therapeutic value — through fermentation of heterotrophic algae.
Given the size of the potential market for their suite of high-value functional molecules — and the broad application to products across the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries — we believe the future looks bright for Purissima.