NB-Biomatrix, a Saint John startup that uses nano-technology to fight water pollution, has won the fourth annual BioInnovation Challenge at the BioPort Atlantic, walking away with $45,000 in cash and in-kind services.

The company headed by Jeff Jennings and Keith Brunt beat out fellow finalists Athletigen Technologies Inc. of Halifax and Fenol Farms Inc. of Mount Uniacke, N.S., to capture the first prize. It will receive $15,000 in cash and $30,000 in in-kind services.  

“As a finalist the pitch training alone was worth participating in the BioInnovation Challenge but actually winning means I can leverage the prize package to hire co-op students and advance our business,” said Brunt, the Chief Scientific Officer, in a statement.

Still in its early stages, NB-Biomatrix has developed a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt said the product, called Naqua-Pure, binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals like copper cadmium and lead and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water. Brunt said the result is a cost-effective product that can remove 95 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes. It’s a huge improvement over existing methods which tend to be slow and expensive, said Brunt.

The company intends to develop an initial product for the commercial development of chitosan from lobster shells.

Chitosan is a compound that has a range of industrial uses, including pharmaceutical ingredients, water treatment, fertilizer and cosmetics. The demand for the compound is growing strongly, but there are usually massive pollution problems caused by its production.

Eventually, the company hopes to move on to other markets, such as helping to clean up oil spills and tailing ponds.

NB-Matrix is looking for $225,000 in funding by June 2015.

The three finalists and the winner were chosen by a panel of judges comprising: Jeff Dawson, Corporate Finance Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Ross Finlay, Co-Founder of the First Angel Network; and

Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures.

“We had a great cohort this year, an excellent judging panel, and the three finalists presented extremely well today,” said Brian Lowe, chair of BioNova, which organized BioPort. “All three companies deserve the win, but there can only be one and NB-Biomatrix came out on top and I wish them every success moving forward.”



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