Technology

Groundbreaking outcomes require a different approach

Our unique process sets us apart. Scientific, methodical and scalable, it's designed to build value for our clients. Starting with hypotheses founded on naturally occurring targets, we leverage the enormous power of Ginkgo Bioworks’ codebase to find the most promising genetic analogs. From here we iterate, with the capability to test that is orders of magnitude greater than our competitors — yielding a trillion potential options via foundry automation.

bioinformatics
BIOINFORMATICS

Microbial and enzyme database

We maintain an industry-leading database of genetically sequenced and phenotypically characterized microbes and enzymes for biodegradation or biogeochemical sequestration of contaminants in various environments and media

transformative
TRANSFORMATIVE BIOLOGY

Microbial engineering, deployment engineering, biosecurity

We develop next-generation biological solutions by engineering customizable and traceable microbes for specific environmental applications with no adverse effects on natural ecosystems

transformative
INTEGRATED
SYSTEMS

System integration, continuous improvement

We offer seamless integration of multiple technology systems including transformative biology, adjacent technologies and sensing to deliver robust, sustainable solutions for our customers

Four global priority sectors

Our goal is simple — to help industry and nature work better together. We are focused on four key sectors critical to the global economy.

mining

Rare Earth Elements

Lanthanide metals, also known as “rare earth elements,” are powering the next generation of batteries, windmill turbines and superconducting magnets. However, current methods of extraction, separation and purification are industrially intensive and environmentally unfriendly. For example, extraction often involves the use of large volumes of toxic solvents.

We believe there is a better way by using biology to develop competitively-priced, natural solutions and allow for geographic expansion of REE mining into regions whose regulations prohibit current methods. We can do this by extracting value from what is typically considered waste.

We are also working on additional solutions for the Mining industry that improve the sustainability of current and legacy assets.

We are working on solutions that improve the environmental footprint for access to REE. In addition, they could allow rare earth element mining to exist closer to the manufacturing technologies that rely on these precious metals.

We are focused on three opportunity streams for high residual concentrations of REE suitable for biomining:

Consumer Electronics Waste — discarded hardware contains small amounts of highly concentrated REE.

Manufacturing Waste — for example, the production of components for specialized helicopter blades, high power magnets or radar equipment uses REE but generates 30% waste.

Mine tailings — even after REE are extracted in conventional mining, the residual waste contains commercially viable quantities of REE.

Our proposed methodology will extract value from these waste streams while minimizing the traditionally harmful environmental impacts. We separate REE biologically by identifying proteins that attract REE which in turn get “stuck” to the protein. These proteins, when configured in a filter matrix, bind to individual REE metals and create a concentration that allows for a far less industrially intensive purification.

We are actively testing the most promising proteins in our labs and engineering bacteria to express the very best performing proteins on the cell surface to bind the target REE. Tests are ongoing and exhibiting promising results, with a 5X lift in affinity versus previous benchmarks. Our work has attracted a grant from the Department of Defense as they seek a solution to bring REE recycling and mining to the US for a more secure supply chain.

energy

Oils Sands

Energy producers need a passive, low-energy process to remediate wastewater contaminants – specifically in tailings ponds resulting from oil sands mining. In Canada alone, these ponds contain 1.3 billion cubic meters of contaminated water, which often contain naphthenic acids toxic to aquatic life. Put in perspective, that’s the equivalent of half a million Olympic-sized swimming pools, enough to wrap two-thirds the way around the Earth.

We’re exploring bioremediation to enable energy producers to safely recycle water for its eventual return back into waterways.

Our work focuses on solutions that reduce the environmental impact associated with existing energy sources like Oil Sands. This entails the identification, optimization and deployment of naturally occurring microbes that thrive on the naphthenic acids found in Oil Sands Process Water (OSPW) by breaking down the complex hydrocarbon molecules into smaller, non-toxic compounds.

We discover and accelerate the most promising solutions that are already found in nature. Testing millions of strains, we select the most viable ones that, in the absence of simple sugars, seek alternative food sources and, through beneficial mutation, evolve to consume the naphthenic acid. Certain microbes prosper and become more prevalent. We identify the microbes most effective at degrading and consuming toxins like naphthenic acids in order to detoxify the OSPW and protect the downstream ecosystem.

Included in our development are multiple pathways to select the optimal solution. These include:

Evolution process Creating environments to stimulate and measure trillions of mutations, looking for the most promising ones that can rapidly detoxify the OSPW.

Engineering approach Decoding the DNA of the most promising microbes to understand effective biological pathways and enzymes. We explore whether these effects can be multiplied (e.g., adding more copies of the same enzyme or adding alternate enzymes known to be capable of degrading similar molecules) or optimized by modifying the enzyme(s).

Effective solutions are expedited via high throughput and the advancements in technology that have been made in synthetic biology over the past several years.

Using transformative biology we combine the learnings from multiple pathways to optimize microbes to operate at the desired level. Once validated in the lab, the optimized microbes would be introduced at scale into the site’s infrastructure utilizing an environment such as surrounding wetlands. This serves as a passive, low-energy solution that gradually detoxifies contaminated water, until it meets the regulatory requirements needed for its safe release.

industry

PFAS

Industry produces critically important chemicals and coatings. Some, like the ones used to make pans non-stick; firefighting foam non-combustible; or fabric stain-resistant, are complex molecules. Some of the most prevalent are Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of persistent, bioaccumulative toxic compounds.

Remediating these complex long-chain molecules is particularly challenging because the carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest chemical bonds in nature. The challenge – it's potentially toxic even at single parts per trillion. Allonnia is focused on developing solutions that effectively and efficiently address PFAS contamination.

Our approach to solving PFAS in the environment is focused in three areas:

Sensing — detecting trace amounts of PFAS in the environment;
Removal — extracting concentrated PFAS from contaminated water; and
Remediation — degrading the removed PFAS by enzymatically breaking the C-F bonds

SENSING Before we can deploy technologies to address PFAS, we need to be able to measure the scale of contamination. We are working on sensing technology that effectively detects down to parts per trillion. We are using protein based bioaffinity as well as whole cell microbial approaches to develop a sensor that can detect, bind and manifest the presence of PFAS either through an electrochemical response or fluorescence that can be measured precisely. Deployment in combination with an engineered system allows industry partners to plan for remediation or the safe release of treated water at regulated levels.

REMOVAL PFAS removal is an enormous global problem. In the US alone, the addressable market is approximately $160B. Incumbent technologies rely on passing massive amounts of contaminated water through large systems that process and bind the PFAS chemically, leaving large volumes of highly toxic media such as activated carbon or resin. In collaboration with OPEC Systems, we are exploring a more elegant approach, a physicochemical process called Foam Fractionation.

This is essentially an industrial-scale air bubbler, similar in principle to those found in fish tanks, and exploits the PFAS molecule’s unique hydrophilic/hydrophobic properties to bind the molecule to the air bubble allowing it to separate and rise to the surface. This creates a highly concentrated PFAS foam that can be skimmed off the top of a column of water. The PFAS is now contained in a more manageable, low volume, high concentration form, with concentration factors that can exceed 2 million to 1! We are actively exploring the addition of biodegradable surfactants to aid in the efficiency and rate of capture, including short-chain PFAS compounds.

REMEDIATION In partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks, we are designing experiments at an unprecedented scale to test every enzyme that has the potential to degrade the C-F bond. Using high throughput screening, we are looking at both bacterial and fungal pathways – the latter being well-documented in its ability to break down complex carbon molecules. If necessary we are prepared to use Nature’s best enzymes as templates to synthesize even more effective enzymes to address this challenge.

It’s this comprehensive approach to PFAS along with access to the resources and collaborative partnerships that sets our technology apart.

plastics

Polyurethane Foam Mattresses

Advances in polyurethane applications have led to transformations of whole retail categories. One example is the bedding industry. With foldable, shippable mattress options quickly taking over the market, polyurethane mattresses are surging in popularity.

However, the downside of this consumer convenience is the enormous environmental consequences of the disposal of these mattresses. By some estimates, each year we discard enough mattresses to circle the earth. To us, it’s a challenge that can be solved with transformative biology.

The good news about polyurethane is that it can biodegrade, provided the mattresses are absent of wood, springs, cloth and other materials. The bad news is it takes decades to do so. We are working on promising biological solutions to dramatically accelerate this natural biodegradation process. Furthermore, we believe that by taking apart polyurethane into its purified and valuable constituent ingredients, including isocyanates, we can transform what was traditionally perceived as waste into a value stream.

Using high throughput screening, we analyze myriad combinations of microorganisms and proteins and identify those that show the most promise to adequately accelerate the degradation process.

Working with our technical partners at Ginkgo Bioworks, Battelle and NREL, we are engineering a microorganism to produce the required protein at scale via precision fermentation. The resulting enzyme solution can be introduced to the waste polymers via an engineered system, and the upcycled constituent ingredients captured for re-use. Our goal is to achieve a purity level that now makes it economically viable to upcycle discarded mattresses.

Working with us

From highly customized solutions to broad co-development arrangements that generate common learning in a given sector, we work in a variety of ways to best meet our partners’ unique needs.

Technology Licensing

Access to a transformational biology package through licensing model

Biological solutions

Delivery of a biological package directly for use in customer integrated system

Complete integrated system

Design and build pilot scale units; working with partners for full-scale commercial units

Ongoing monitoring,
service + Support

Performance monitoring/sensing, optimization and technology upgrades

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