SyntheZyme Wins Second National Science Foundation Grant to Commercialize Promising Biopesticide

SyntheZyme, a sustainable chemical company founded by Richard Gross, the Herman F. Mark chair and professor of chemical and biological sciences at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), has received a $475,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation.  These competitive awards provide federal support for small, highly innovative technology businesses.

This is the second SBIR grant for SyntheZyme. The Phase I grant, awarded in January 2010, provided funding to demonstrate the efficacy of one of SyntheZyme’s core innovations — a biopesticide developed from a modified yeast strain that can protect grain and produce crops without the use of harmful chemical agents.

Due to tightened regulations and heightened concerns about the health hazards of synthetic chemical pesticides, Gross says that a safe alternative is increasingly critical. “This continued support from the National Science Foundation will help us take the final steps toward our goal — offering a safe and superior biopesticide that poses no threat to the farmers who handle the materials or to the consumers who buy their produce,” Gross said.

In testing, the SyntheZyme product proved highly effective against the three major plant pathogen fungal groups that attack commercially important crops including potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, corn and rice.

The Phase II grant will allow SyntheZyme to complete additional research necessary to commercialize the biopesticide. Plans include optimizing the processes for yeast fermentation and product production, conducting field trials and performing additional toxicity and biodegradation testing.

SyntheZyme has also made significant progress in developing a highly durable, recyclable bioplastic made from yeast and fatty acids from plant oils. This unique material may be a suitable substitute for polyethylene used in disposable gloves, food packaging films and films for ice, trash and produce bags.

SyntheZyme is jointly owned by Dr. Gross and NYU-Poly. The company is also part of the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC-ACRE), NYU-Poly’s small-business incubator fostering clean technology and renewable energy companies in New York City.

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About Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in a 157-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: i2e. The institution, founded in 1854, is the nation’s second-oldest private engineering school. In addition to its main campus in New York City at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it also offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. Globally, NYU-Poly has programs in Israel, China and is an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi.

About SyntheZyme

SyntheZyme is a privately-held sustainable chemical company commercializing the technology developed in the laboratories of Professor Richard A. Gross at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Dr. Gross is the Herman F. Mark Professor of Polymer Science and head of the Center for Biocatalysis and Bio-processing of Macromolecules at NYU-Poly. Located in Brooklyn, N.Y., SyntheZyme uses the understanding of biocatalysis to replace petrochemical based industrial chemicals with biobased and biodegradable alternatives. Focusing on chemicals for plastics, pesticides, cosmetics and personal care product ingredients, Nature’s chemistry shows the way and provides the tools that are used by SyntheZyme. For more information, visit www.SyntheZyme.com.

About New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy

The New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE) is a cleantech/renewable energy initiative of NYU-Poly, seeded by a four year, $1.5M grant from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) aimed at growing an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, international companies, and innovative local businesses that provide solutions to climate and energy issues while growing the cleantech/renewable energy sector and creating jobs in NYC. For more information, visit www.nycacre.com.