Algenuity, a UK algal biotech company, has today launched the Algem labscale photobioreactor for algae and cyanobacteria research in Europe and the Middle East. The Algem labscale photobioreactor uses advanced lighting, temperature, and mixing features to model environments and measure growth of algae and cyanobacteria. It can even model environments of almost anywhere in the world and during any month.
“Two years ago we needed a labscale photobioreactor to support our algal molecular biology R&D, but the market offerings were too expensive, limited in capability, and too complicated to use,” stated Andrew Spicer, Director and Chief Research Scientist of Algenuity. “We decided to build our own solution. Using our parent company’s 20 years of product development and manufacturing experience and our algal research team’s expertise, we’ve built a novel system that is financially accessible, sophisticated, but also easy to use.”
One of the most powerful features is the geographical modelling capacity. Using the Algem’s global meteorological database, users can recreate light and temperature conditions from almost anywhere in the world and from any month by inputting the longitude, latitude, and month. Spicer adds,
“Before building a production facility in a country, researchers can use the Algem to model how well a given microalgal strain will perform in the proposed location – like Hawaii or Helsinki for example.”
A Flask-based and multi-unit photobioreactor
One of the most innovative features though is the flask-based system. The Algem uses standard 1L Erlenmeyer lab flasks that are inexpensive, easy to clean and autoclave, and easy to set up and interchange. While other systems often take time to be disassembled and cleaned, the Algem allows users to remove the flasks within seconds and get the flasks cleaned. Users can then immediately start another experiment with another set of lab flasks.
“The contamination headache in our research is removed and if you break a flask, you don’t have to spend a few hundred or even thousand pounds on a replacement vessel” said Spicer.
Spicer also wanted the Algem to be a multi-unit system: “Almost all the offerings on the market were single unit systems and were limited in terms of setting up control experiments and offering higher throughput. We modify microalgal strains in our lab, and we wanted to be able to monitor the growth of a modified strain against a parental strain – with the two-unit Algem system, it is now possible.”
Algem – Tested by Algal Researchers
The Algem had been beta-tested by algal researchers from Chris Howe’s lab at the University of Cambridge, Saul Purton’s lab at University College London (UCL), the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Cranfield University, and Aragreen.
“Although we had validated the Algem photobioreactor in our own lab, we wanted to test it in some of the top UK algal research labs prior to its launch,” noted Spicer. “The feedback we received was very positive.”
Michele Stanley, a senior lecturer at SAMS and one of the beta-testers, remarked, “We got on with it really well, so well in fact we’ve bought one. It’s been very good; the system’s very easy to operate.”
Researchers from Chris Howe’s lab at Cambridge noted the Algem in their methods and acknowledgments for a recent paper published in the journal, Plant Physiology.
The Algem labscale photobioreactor launches today in Europe and the Middle East and will launch in the USA and worldwide later this year.