Martek Corp. said it received four small business innovationresearch grants, totaling more than $1 million, in Septemberfrom the National Institutes of Health for development of newalgal-based products for nutrition and for rational drug design.

The Columbia, Md., company cultures microalgae to producebiochemicals and substances for use in food, pharmaceuticalsand aquaculture.

It was awarded a $437,000 Phase II SBIR grant for research oncarbon 13 glycerol. "This is a molecule that is used as a carbonsource for microbes. The purpose of it is to feed it to microbesso they make carbon 13-labeled products, for example arecombinant bacterium that would make a protein ofpharmaceutical interest. That labeled protein could then beanalyzed with NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) equipment andits structure found very quickly," Henry Linsert Jr., Martek'schairman and chief executive officer, told BioWorld.

Martek was also awarded a $500,000 Phase II grant to developtechnology to produce labeled amino acids and nucleosides.

Martek also announced two $50,000 Phase I grants. One grantis for research to optimize production of beta-carotene, aprecursor to vitamin A, in a specified alga using fermentationtechnology.

The second Phase I grant is for modification of a specifiedalga's mode of growth using recombinant DNA techniques tocause it to obtain energy from glucose instead of light. Thealga produces a high level of eicosapentienoic acid (EPA), abiologically active fatty acid that has beneficialcardiovascular effects for humans, the company said. Ifsuccessful, the project would enable large-scale production ofEPA.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.