Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently offered a prize of USD 100 million on Twitter for the best technology to bind carbon dioxide. If you can, you can! Musk is doubly right, of course: We need to radically reduce CO2, and the key to doing so is new technology.
We’d have a hot candidate: Photosynthesis! More precisely, a company that harnesses the power of natural photosynthesis on an industrial scale. We are talking about the Canadian start-up Pond Technologies Inc. (TSXV: POND, WKN: A2JDJM). In more than ten years of work (even start-ups can get on in years!), Pond has developed a technologically leading platform for the cultivation of microalgae. Algae “eats” CO2 and turns it into biomass. Pond grows microalgae in closed tanks under fully controlled conditions; the CO2 content in a tank is a hundred times that of air (5% instead of 0.04%). The algae in the tank grow faster than in an open pond. The important thing is that Pond’s technology is scalable: the size of the tanks can vary from 100 liters to 50,000 liters. The principle remains the same: Two tons of CO2, created from burning gas or coal, yields about one ton of algae.
Algae industry suffers from a bad image
The problem for the entire algae industry is that even green investors are now quick to wave off the topic of algae. You heard that ten years ago, they often say. The list of failed experiments is long. At the time, the founding program of many companies was biofuel from algae vs. fossil raw materials. Hardly any of them survived. How could it? The task is like squaring the circle. How is a young technology supposed to compete with the world’s largest commodity right off the bat? All the more so if the true costs of fossil fuels are not factored in, which is only gradually happening with the introduction of CO2 prices.
But Pond seems to have finally found the key to solving this dilemma. The magic word is bio-pharma. Microalgae act as living microfactories for the production of high-quality medical proteins.
It is a long way from biodiesel to the synthesis of medical proteins. But that’s exactly the path Pond wants to take. The company has recently been successfully using its platform to produce human antibodies. The principle is already known from bacteria and yeast fungi. Microalgae do not need sugar to grow, but light. Initial tests indicate that they have certain advantages over yeasts and bacteria. And compared to mammalian cells, which today are mainly used in the field of bio-pharmaceuticals, microalgae are characterized by their extremely fast reproduction. Theoretically, therefore, large quantities of certain proteins could be produced quickly, as well as substances such as CBDs, etc. We will probably see a lot more in this direction.
The fantastic thing about technological progress is that surprising ways are always found that no one had thought of before. This has also been the case with Pond Technologies. It was the CRISP/Cas9 gene scissors that made the genetic programming of microalgae possible. This could be a breakthrough for Pond – not only technologically, but above all economically, because Pond Technologies forms an integral part of a larger algae-based bioeconomy (see Figure 2).
The logic of this algae-based bio-economy (the term comes from a 2016 DECHEMA study) works in stages. At the very bottom, i.e. at the beginning of the ladder, are the small but high-margin products that are needed for an algae-based bio-economy to get off the ground at all. And only at the bottom of the ladder are the commodities in huge quantities with correspondingly low prices.
With bio-pharma, on the other hand, things look completely different. There, it is not a question of tons, but of micrograms of certain proteins. Such quantities are child’s play for Pond. That is why Pond is currently systematically preparing its entry into the bio-pharma sector. To this end, the company set up a new biotech department at the end of last year.
It is already becoming apparent that the topic of bio-pharma could become the long-sought door opener for an algae-based bio-economy. We therefore recommend to follow the news of Pond Technologies closely. If you would like to learn more about the company, we recommend the website https://www.pondtech.com/company/ or the current company presentation https://www.pondtech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Pond-Tech-Company-Presentation-October-2020-1.pdf.
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According to §34b WpHG and § 48f Abs. 5 BörseG (Austria) we would like to point out that GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH and/or partners, principals or employees of GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH hold shares of Pond Technologies Holdings and therefore a conflict of interest exists. GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH also reserves the right to buy or sell shares of the company at any time. Furthermore, GOLDINVEST Consulting GmbH is remunerated by Pond Technologies Holdings for reporting on the company. This is another clear conflict of interest.
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