Some of our oils, and all of our whole algal products, are made from native microalgae strains. These native strains are selected through a rigorous screening process in which we look at thousands of microalgae seeking properties that translate into product benefits for our customers. Other companies have used similar strain-screening processes for decades to make products such as DHA, the Omega-3 algal oil, found in infant formula. Solazyme products made using native microalgae strains include AlgaVia™ Whole Algal Flour and AlgaVia™ Whole Algal Protein food ingredients, and Alguronic Acid®, Solazyme’s original algae-derived ingredient used in Algenist® skin care products.
Sometimes our customers request specific oils that cannot be efficiently produced in native algae strains. In this case, we can optimize a strain to provide significant product performance benefits such as safety, sustainability or health advantages — for example, an oil with a higher flash point to improve the safety of lubricants or a more sustainable and healthier alternative to palm oil. In order to make these oils, we use traditional biotechnology tools including standard genetic engineering techniques that were developed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to produce biopharmaceuticals.
When we use traditional genetic engineering techniques, we begin with a native strain or one selected through classical strain improvement. To make the desired oil profile, we work within the microalgae’s natural oil producing pathways. We may introduce one or sometimes a few genes from a plant with desired properties, or we might make only modest changes to the microalgae’s existing genes, for example, shutting off production of an undesired oil component. As an example, when developing a heart-healthy oil, we might add a natural sunflower gene that increases production of monounsaturated fats, while shutting off a gene in the algae that encourages production of saturated fat. It is important to note that Solazyme’s oils are not themselves genetically engineered, but rather the oils are made by microalgae that have been modified using traditional genetic engineering techniques.
Traditional genetic engineering techniques have been used for decades by a number of companies across the globe to produce ingredients for widely used products, including enzymes in laundry detergents that break up stains, rennet substitutes to produce the majority of cheeses, Vitamin C and other key nutrients used to make healthier and better products for people, as well as insulin for diabetics. Those Solazyme products that are made using traditional genetic engineering techniques include high stability high oleic oil, lauric oils and structuring fats. For example, our high stability, high oleic oil is a nutritional breakthrough and one of the healthiest oils in existence. It is very low levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, zero transfats, rich in healthy omega 9 fatty acids, and low in saturated fats.