NEW EUROPEAN PATENT GRANTED
National Institute of Biology has a long tradition and expertise in ecological research in surface waters like lakes and rivers pollution. Acute and chronic pollutions are associated with the appearance cyanobacterial blooms, releasing toxic substances – e.g. microcystins into water environment, representing a threat to the natural environment, due to animal and human intoxications.
The first European patent to the Division of Genetic Toxicology of the National Institute of Cancer Biology and Biology has been recently granted. The patent describes "Method and system for simultaneous detection of micro-particle concentration in suspension and their morphological and physiological traits”. The novelty in selective analyses of microparticles including bloom forming cyanobacteria, the microorganisms also called blue-green algae. In essence, the innovative principle is based on analyses of the otherwise disturbing “noise”, produced by particles that is superimposed to the mail fluorescence signal providing a plethora of information on size, shape and physiological properties, in a simpler and faster way that has never been possible so far.
The patent is the result of successful inter-institutional teamwork that enabled the transfer of basic research to the industry. The research at was carried out by Prof. Bojan Sedmak in cooperation with the Biotechnical Faculty of University of Ljubljana, Prof. Domen Leštan and dr. Andrej Meglič, with the companies ARHEL d.o.o., Gorazd Lakovič and Marko Gerl, and Envit d.o.o.
The development of devices for simultaneous and non-invasive differentiation, not only of the composition of microscopic communities of inorganic and organic particles in suspensions, but also their changes of states is now possible using the high frequency pulse-induced illumination with results on-line. The patent has wider application than just algae technology and water purification, but also in pharmaceutical and cosmetic biotechnology, in monitoring the quality of the production of active substances in bioreactors, advanced research on cancer drugs using 3D organoids, on one hand, and on the other hand in eco-technologies such as tracking air quality, impurities in the production of materials, etc.
The principle has been actually tested on a pilot prototype, the solar-powered robotic vessel that detects various classes of cyanobacteria in water bodies. For this particular project, called "Innovative Cyanobacterial Bloom Control Technologies", the authors received the first “National ENERGY GLOBE Award” in 2018 in competition between 182 participating countries and more than 2000 project proposals. The Energy Globe Award is today the most prestigious environmental award in the World with the goal of conservation of natural resources.