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At Beagle Bioproducts, their algae ain’t our algae

Posted by Stephanie A. Smith, Ph.D. on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 @ 04:16 PM

OK, let me just get something off my chest:  Beagle Bioproducts, Inc. is not an algae company.   On our website you will see lots of green stuff, and talk about harmful algal blooms (HABs), but we are not an algae company.  Now, let me really get something off my chest:  Beagle Bioproducts has nothing to do with algae biofuels.  Granted, that is a topic of great interest to me as a scientist, but algae biofuels have nothing to do with the business of Beagle Bioproducts.   So, let me explain why the algae related to biofuels ain’t our algae.

Algae of interest to Beagle Bioproducts, Inc. are actually bacteria, more specifically cyanobacteria.  At Beagle Bioproducts, we use cyanobacteria to make products that are used to study HABs and toxins made by cyanobacteria in HABs.  Cyanobacteria are prokaryotic, while true algae are eukaryotic.  Since cyanobacteria are usually in the water, are green, and act like algae by doing photosynthesis, they were originally studied by phycologists (algae scientists), rather than bacteriologists.   Cyanobacteria make a specific pigment, phycocyanin, which gives them a bluish (“cyan”) hue in addition to their green color provided by chlorophyll.  Early phycologists thus called cyanobacteria “blue-green algae,” and that name has stuck.  We get lazy, then, and sometimes just drop the “blue-green” when we’re talking about the algae we work with, which are not actually algae!

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The algae biofuels folks are typically working with true green algae (which I just realized rhymes with blue-green algae, so now I feel clever).  Cyanobacteria would not be a great feedstock for biodiesel, for instance, because cyanobacteria don’t make a lot of the same fats, in either quantity or quality, that green algae make.  Those fats are the raw material for biodiesel.  Likewise, true green algae don’t make toxins or the other products planned for development at Beagle Bioproducts.  So their algae ain’t our algae.

We hope you will feel free to contact us, take our online survey about HABs, or just visit our website to learn more about the business of Beagle Bioproducts!

P.S.   Cyanosite is a great website to learn more about cyanobacteria…

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