Minnepura Technologies Inc. uses bacteria-based biotechnology to purify water that has been contaminated by chemicals from industrial processes. The company is based on scientific discoveries by University of Minnesota researchers Alptekin Aksan, Ph.D., of the College of Science and Engineering and BioTechnology Institute, and Larry Wackett, Ph.D., of the College of Biological Sciences and also of the BioTechnology Institute.
The U of M-patented technology behind Minnepura uses small, sponge-like silica beads to trap certain types of bacteria in place. The beads, once placed in water, allow the bacteria to eat away potentially dangerous chemicals, naturally breaking these compounds down into harmless, environmentally friendly byproducts. And because the bacteria are contained within silica, scientists can ensure they stay alive and effective for months. Minnepura’s team identifies which bacteria are best suited for removing specific problematic chemicals in water, and then designs silica beads with the right type of bacteria inside to remove those contaminants. The company manufactures these beads for use in industrial and municipal water purification needs.
From industrial waste to agricultural runoff, there are numerous forms of chemical pollution that end up contaminating lakes, streams and groundwater, creating health risks for humans and animals alike. While there is a growing need to remove these chemicals, traditional methods are complex, costly and unsustainable, requiring condensed chemicals to be stored in a landfill as hazardous waste or pumped into injection wells deep inside the Earth. Minnepura’s silica beads provide a natural, low-cost alternative that can be custom-designed for specific chemicals from a wide range of industrial operations. The technology is also flexible enough to use in existing water treatment systems.
“Minnepura is dedicated to helping protect and purify our most precious global commodity: water. This technology, based on natural processes, can make a lasting difference in this crucial effort . Our cost-effectively solution for removing extremely troublesome contaminants can benefit industries like oil and gas, agriculture, municipal water and pharmaceuticals.” — Paul Hansen, president and CEO, Minnepura
- Minnepura was formed in October 2013, based on technology developed by U of M researchers Alptekin Aksan and Larry Wackett.
- Steve Moss came on board as CEO of the company in 2014, with current President and CEO Paul Hansen taking the helm in early 2015.
- Minnepura signed its first research and development contract in May 2015. The deal, signed with a multibillion-dollar global company headquartered in Europe, will allow Minnepura to develop and launch its first product based on its silica bead technology to meet global opportunities in water treatment.
- In June 2015, Minnepura will submit a project proposal to the National Science Foundation to prove that the manufacturing process for its silica beads can scale up to higher production levels.
Paul Hansen, Minnepura president and CEO
Paul Hansen is an executive with over 25 years of experience in operational leadership at 3M Co. Hansen has substantial experience with new business development, operations and global business management having led 3M operations within highly competitive consumer, medical and industrial markets globally. Known for creating and implementing strategic plans that solve critical business/customer issues while driving new business growth, Hansen holds a degree in chemistry and economics from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and an MBA from the U of M’s Carlson School of Management.
Alptekin Aksan, Ph.D., co-founder and technical adviser
Alptekin Aksan, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the U of M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and its BioTechnology Institute. Aksan obtained his Ph.D. from Michigan State University and did his postdoctoral studies at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in the area of stabilization and preservation of biological systems. Aksan has worked towards developing biostabilization technologies and bioencapsulation platforms for encapsulating biologicals — such as enzymes, mammalian cells and bacteria — in silica-based, porous materials to be used in a variety of areas ranging from biomedicine to biotechnology. He has consulted for numerous governmental and commercial entities both nationally and internationally.
Larry Wackett, Ph.D., co-founder and technical adviser
Larry Wackett, Ph.D., is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the U of M’s Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics and its BioTechnology Institute. Wackett has conducted research with and consulted for numerous multinational and biotechnology companies. His research team has worked with industry and regulatory agencies to conduct remediation of environmental chemicals. Wackett has been funded by more than 100 research grants, has published 200 papers and has written a major textbook on biocatalysts and biodegradation.
Minnepura was launched in October 2013 and is located in St. Paul, Minn.
Each month Inquiry features a startup company launched by the University of Minnesota based on U of M technology. To learn more about university startups, visit the Office for Technology Commercialization.