Arthrospira (also known as Spirulina) is currently the only robust, commercially successful genus of cyanobacteria. Spirulina are cultivated worldwide for use as a human and animal food supplement due to their high protein content. They are also a rich source of B vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Yet global production of Spirulina has been held back by the lack of efficient genetic engineering methods.
Matrix has broken through this bottleneck by being the first to invent rapid and efficient methods for genetic engineering of Spirulina. Matrix technology allows for the stable and precise introduction of new genes into the Spirulina genome, resulting in Spirulina that express increased amounts of valuable proteins, new proteins, new biochemical pathways and improved production traits.
One of the first applications is a strain of Spirulina that can double the yield of phycocyanin, a natural antioxidant that is used as a nutritional supplement as well as a blue pigment for the food and cosmetic and medical industries. The market for phycocyanin is predicted to double over the next three years, but the industry faces real challenges in meeting the increased demand due to insufficient production.
This discovery will offer the food industry a new, safe and sustainable source of ingredients to meet the increasing demands of consumers for foods that are safe and not artificially produced. It also opens the door for using Spirulina as a photosynthetic workhouse to cheaply produce a large variety of commercially valuable proteins and pigments. The new genetic engineering technology also provides a means to improve the growth characteristics of Spirulina, thereby further increasing production rates.