Superfund Research Program
SRP Small Business Shines at Biotech Innovation Convention
Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business grantee Microvi Biotechnologies, Inc., showcased its innovative remediation technology at the recent Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in Philadelphia, June 15 - 18.
As the world's largest biotechnology conference and exhibition, this annual event attracts 15,000 biotech leaders from 65 countries and covers a wide spectrum of life science innovations and application areas. Microvi was one of only 35 NIH grantees selected to exhibit at the "BIO Innovation Zone," a special exhibit space dedicated to showcasing National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grantees.
"SRP was pleased to learn Microvi was chosen to showcase an environmental remediation application. Their technology -- a biological-based remediation approach -- shows great promise to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water," said SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D. 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, is difficult to remove with conventional water treatment technologies.
"It was encouraging to find many organization representatives with not just knowledge of, but also interest in, bioremediation," said Microvi Director of Innovation Research Ameen Razavi, who represented the company at the convention. "We highlighted our 1,4-dioxane technology and our co-metabolic remediation technology, and also discussed how our overall approach to water treatment is unique and novel."
Because Microvi was one of the few environmental biotech companies in a space filled with a number of biomedical and pharmaceutical-oriented organizations, Razavi was able to take advantage of more targeted one-on-one meetings, which resulted in useful and productive discussions.
"An interesting fact that resonated in our discussions was how closely the research and development in biomedical sciences can be integrated for bioremediation technologies," said Razavi. "Many of the novel assays, metagenomics tools, real-time metabolite analyzers, etc., were directly applicable to our work in ways that could only come through in such detailed, in-person discussions."
SRP Grantees Present Sustainable Solutions for PCB-Contaminated Sediments
A workshop in Danville, Virginia, brought together Superfund Research Program (SRP) researchers and partners to highlight lab and field work aimed at degrading polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments. Researchers also highlighted results from three years of PCB degradation and containment research in a six-acre wastewater overflow pond in Altavista, Virginia.
Researchers from the University of Iowa SRP Center (ISRP), as well as SRP grantees from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), participated in the workshop. The workshop also included representatives from the Altavista Town Council, as well as partners from the Institute for Advanced Learning in Danville, Virginia, and Ecolotree, a small business focusing on phytoremediation.
Talks included state-of-the-art research for phytoremediation and microbial bioremediation of PCBs in general, as well as the latest data from each group's experiments at the Altavista site. This was followed by a discussion of possible approaches to cleanup and goals the town hopes to achieve at the pond.
"Altavista is keen to work with all of us to transfer the technologies to a full-scale remediation," said Jerry Schnoor, Ph.D., a University of Iowa SRP researcher and workshop participant.
Kevin Sowers, Ph.D., a professor at UMBC and a previous SRP individual research project grantee, presented preliminary data that show evidence of progress using microbes in already-established enclosures at the Altavista site. UMBC professor and SRP grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., is also working on this project at the Altavista site.
ISRP scientist Timothy Mattes, Ph.D., provided context for PCB degradation in the field. He is developing a biological solution for PCB contamination that uses plants and their associated microbes in the root zone. His research is showing promise as an economical, green solution to clean up Altavista's wastewater lagoon.
"The workshop was a success and probably the first time we had this large an assembly of investigators working specifically on PCBs," Sowers said.
Reflections on the Superfund Research Program
A recent paper, authored by former and current NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded scientists, describes the success of the SRP in its first 25 years in addressing complex health and environmental problems associated with hazardous waste sites. According to the authors, what appears at first to be a typical multi-project research structure is really not conventional. The program requires integrated biomedical and environmental science or engineering projects that are organized around a common theme, bringing various disciplines together to solve complex problems.
Since its inception in 1987, the SRP has worked to answer important scientific questions such as how contaminants on waste sites affect our health, and how to cleanup a site sustainably at a reduced cost. The authors discuss scientific achievements made by the program that include discovery of biological mechanisms through which environmental chemicals may contribute to health problems such as obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. It has also fostered development of novel biological and engineering techniques for efficient and low-cost remediation of hazardous waste sites. The SRP’s robust training program emphasizes cross-disciplinary training for the next generation of leaders in environmental health science. Over the years, the program has emphasized the translation of research into public health improvements.
As part of the 25th Anniversary of the SRP, a series of videos were produced to reflect on the innovative program. Posted on the NIEHS YouTube channel, the videos feature SRP staff, current and former project leaders and trainees, and program partners who discuss their motivations, experiences, and hopes for the future of the SRP.