March 24, 2004

BioInsite to join Small Business Incubator program

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A start-up company with a very promising future is joining the Small Business Incubator program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

Officials from BioInsite, LLC and the University will hold a short grand opening program on Friday, March 26, at 11 a.m. in the conference room at Dunn-Richmond, 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road. Tours of BioInsite's office and lab space will follow.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the grand opening program and interview company and University officials.

Partners in BioInsite are Murphysboro attorney Gary Miller, former SIUC faculty member John D. Coates and his wife, Susan, and the EcoDigital Development Group of Mount Vernon. BioInsite, which won last year's inaugural Southern Angels Business Plan Contest, produces and markets a microorganism that breaks down benzene without the help of oxygen.

Benzene is a major component of gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels. It is one of the most common contaminants found in groundwater supplies, and long-term exposure can lead to cancer in humans.

Coates, now on the faculty of the plant and microbial biology department at the University of California-Berkeley, was an assistant professor of microbiology at SIUC. He led a team of University researchers that three years ago isolated two microorganisms that break down benzene.

"This is a huge problem in Illinois and throughout the U.S. because of the number of underground storage tanks from gas stations that have leaked," Miller said, noting there are thousands of such sites in Illinois.

BioInsite's products eliminate the need for costly removal of contaminated soil.

Miller said another focus of the company is perchlorate soil contamination, caused by solid rocket fuel. BioInsite's first project at its new lab in the Dunn-Richmond center is to test soil samples from Texas and Utah. In addition to a product that can biodegrade perchlorate without oxygen, the company has a patent pending on the method of testing for the presence of the contaminant.

Kyle Harfst, manager of the Small Business Incubator, considers BioInsite an important addition to the program.

"BioInsite is one of the first technologies created at SIUC that has engaged in successful research commercialization," Harfst said. "The fact that there is a Small Business Incubator with wet lab space on campus facilitates the interaction between University research and corporate America."

Enhancing economic development in the region through research and scholarly activity is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.