Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Russell Kerr: The deal will lead to a new R&D centre for marine-based natural products.

Charlottetown-based Nautilus Biosciences Canada Inc., a marine biotechnology company, said Monday it has been purchased by the British specialty chemical-maker Croda International Plc for an undisclosed price.

Founded in 2007 by University of Prince Edward Island Professor Russell Kerr, Nautilus focuses on using marine microbial organisms to discover new bio-medical materials and other products. East Yorkshire-based Croda now plans to use Nautilus’ operations and patents for applications across all its market sectors. Including the UPEI lab it works with, Nautilus has a staff of about 30 people. 

Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Croda has a market capitalization of £5.8 billion ($9.9 billion) and in calendar 2016 had sales of £1.2 billion. The company is so acquisitive that it has a tab on its website to show the companies around the world that it has purchased.

“We have enjoyed a very positive and collaborative relationship with both Croda and the University of Prince Edward Island for a number of years and have always been impressed with Croda’s drive to develop the opportunities from marine biotechnology,” said Kerr in a statement. “Becoming part of the Croda group will provide Nautilus the resources and support to establish a key centre for the research and development of marine-derived natural products.”

He added that the P.E.I. operation aims to provide Croda with new products that it can sell. Nautilus has worked closely with Croda for the past six years, developing specific applications for skin care, hair care, and crop care.

The company said Croda intends to establish the base at UPEI as a Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology. This location has already attracted and facilitated partnerships with many other biotechnology-based companies, said the statement, and Nautilus has exclusive global access to the Marine Microbial Library, which is based at UPEI.

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“This is another clear example of how sustainable innovation is underpinning our growth plans,” said Croda CEO Steve Foots. “With Nautilus as part of the Croda Group, we further expand our expertise in biotechnology. The Nautilus team that will join us have extensive knowledge and expertise in marine biotechnology, also known as ‘blue biotechnology.’”

The Nautilus sale is the latest in a spate of exits in P.E.I. in the past year. In June, Charlottetown-based iWave Information Systems Inc. sold out to San Francisco private equity fund Sverica Capital Management LLC, after almost three decades as an independent company. Last April, global education publisher Scholastic purchased online literacy company Ooka Island.

PEI BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis described the Nautilus purchase as “another important success story for the PEI Bioscience Cluster”, which two years ago announced the establishment of Natural Products Canada.

“Croda’s investment in Nautilus and Prince Edward Island is a great return on everyone’s commitment,” said Francis. “It’s how a cluster works. The Croda Centre of Innovation for Marine Biotechnology will be an outstanding addition to the PEI Cluster and Atlantic Canada’s expertise in ocean technologies, strengthening the Atlantic proposal for an Oceans Supercluster in the region.”

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