Some of our oils and whole algal products are made from native microalgae strains. These 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 to make products like the DHA Omega-3 algal oil found in infant formula. Solazyme products made using native microalgae strains include AlgaVia™ Whole Algal Flour and Whole Algal Protein food ingredients, and Alguronic Acid®, the original algae-derived ingredient used in our Algenist skin care products.
Sometimes our customers request specific oils that cannot be efficiently produced in native algae strains. These oils are often optimized 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 alternative to palm oil. In order to optimize these oils, we use traditional biotechnology tools including genetic engineering techniques that were developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s to produce pharmaceuticals.
When we do this, we begin with a native strain or one selected through classical strain improvement. To make the oil profile, we then work within the microalgae’s natural oil producing pathway. We either introduce one or sometimes a few genes from a plant with desired properties or we might make modest changes to the microalgae’s existing genes, like shutting off production of an oil component we don’t want. 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.
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, dough conditioners used in baked goods, rennet substitutes to produce most cheeses, and the production of Vitamin C and other key nutrients used to make healthier and better products for people. Solazyme products made using traditional genetic engineering techniques include high stability high oleic oil, lauric oils and structured fats. These oils and fats are extracted from microalgae (without the use of solvents) and then refined. As a result, no microalgae or live organisms are found in the final oil product. In addition, no live microorganisms remain in the waste streams from the production systems since it is treated to inactivate any live microorganisms before discharge.