MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: Martek Biosciences–microbial production of DHA

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Project Manager:  David  Kyle;  Principal Investigator:  Richard V. Calabrese, UMD
Location:  Columbia, Maryland – Howard County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/1990

Business Description
Martek (now part of Royal DSM) is a leader in the innovation, development, production and sale of high-value products from microbial sources that promote health and wellness through nutrition. Martek’s technology platform consists of its core expertise, broad experience and proprietary technology in areas such as microbial biology, algal genomics, fermentation and downstream processing. This technology platform has resulted in Martek’s development of a number of products, including the company’s flagship product, life’sDHA™, a sustainable and vegetarian source of algal DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) important for brain, heart and eye health throughout life— for use in infant formula, pregnancy and nursing products, foods and beverages, dietary supplements and animal feeds. Martek also produces life’sARA™ (arachidonic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid, for use in infant formula and follow-on formulas. DSM’s acquisition of Martek for circa € 790 million has added a new growth platform to the Human Nutrition & Health entity for healthy and natural food ingredients for infant formula and other food and beverage applications, especially focused on Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids such as microbial Omega-3 DHA and Omega-6 ARA.  DSM has established leadership positions across all three areas of the ingredients business: food, feed and personal care. It is the world’s largest producer of vitamins.

Challenge
Martek sought to scale up its microbial processes so the company could produce large commercial quantities of DHA. Martek did not have equipment for scale-up manufacturing, nor did they have expertise in growing the microalgae that produce DHA.

MIPS Role
Working with the staff of Mtech’s Bioprocess Scale-Up Facility (BSF), Dr. Calabrese defined and transferred the manufacturing process to produce the DHA from the microalgae. It is this process that Martek still uses today to produce DHA.

Results
Martek became the largest producer of nutritional supplements from microalgae. With about 400 people working in Columbia, Md., the company was acquired by Royal DSM in 2010 for $1.1B. Royal DSM N.V. (NYSE Euronext: DSM KON) is a global life sciences and materials sciences company headquartered in the Netherlands.

Interesting Fact
Martek is a graduate of the incubator of Mtech’s Technology Advancement Program (TAP).  The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development provided funding for expansion of the Bioprocess Scale-Up Facility in 2004.

MIPS-Related Quote

“Over 55 million babies worldwide have now had infant formula that included Martek’s nutritional ingredients. Over 99 percent of the infant formula in the Unites States has it, as well as products in more than 75 countries around the world.  Almost every U.S. child under the age of six has had this Martek DHA in their brain.  It all started here.  It all came from this facility.”
–Henry “Pete” Linsert, former Chairman and CEO of Martek

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