UBC startup acquired by Bill Gates-backed company

UBC spinout Metabolik acquired by bioremediation company Allonnia

UBC scientist Vikramaditya Yadav co-founded company that super-charges bacteria that gobble up polltants in oil sands tailings ponds. | UBC

A University of BC spinout company in the bioremediation space has been bundled into a company backed by Microsoft Corp. (NYSE:MSFT) founder Bill Gates.

Metabolik Technologies has been acquired by U.S.-based Allonnia, which is backed by Gates’ Cascade Investment.

Metabolik is one of the portfolio companies of Vancouver clean-tech venture capital firm, Evok Innovations, which is investing $20 million in Allonnia. Allonnia is also in the soil and water bioremediation space.

Metabolik developed a genetic engineering approach to super-charge bacteria that naturally consume toxic compounds in oil sands tailings ponds, notably naphthenic acids. It has been using the process in trials in Alberta.

The acquisition is mainly an intellectual property buy, although two Metabolik executives will be joining Allonnia, said Metabolik co-founder Vikramaditya Yadav, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UBC.

“They acquired all our patents, all our technology, all of the stuff that we have been doing in the oil sands for the last two and half years,” Yadav said.

Yadav and his team will continue to collaborate with Allonnia, and are also now focusing on bioremediation approaches for cleaning up toxic metals in mine waste.

"We are looking at selenium, at arsenic, and we're looking at acid rock drainage," Yadav said.