Lab Canada

Aquatic organism that eats water pollutants focus of collaboration

Peterborough, ON – A new collaborative research initiative based at Trent University focuses on an algae-like organism known as euglena. The Euglena Research Program will bring together faculty and students at Trent to study the untapped potential of euglena, which have the ability to “eat” many different types of water pollutants like minerals, heavy metals, and phosphorus.

The new program was announced by Noble Purification, a water filtration company based at the university. The work being done by Trent researchers will help increase the efficiency of Noble’s water purification technology, allowing communities to remove more pollutants from our fresh water supply, and will also provide an opportunity to sequence the genome of euglena, which could lead to further discoveries.

Leading the group is Dr. Céline Guéguen, associate professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Sciences and Biogeochemistry, who has worked with Noble Purification Inc. to secure funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence to conduct research on euglena’s ability to absorb a variety of heavy metals. Dr. Gueguen’s research sets the stage for future collaborations with Dr. Brent Wootton at the Fleming College Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment. 

Department of Forensics chair and professor, Dr. Barry Saville, will manage the euglena genetics research project. 

Dr. Neil Emery, vice-president research and international and professor of biology, is one of the world’s leading scientists conducting research on cytokinins, a key plant hormone responsible for plant productivity. He will investigate cytokinins in euglena cells and their role in euglena cell division. This applied research will be vital in advancing the Noble technology used to produce euglena in the bulk quantities needed for municipal wastewater treatment. At its end of life, dead euglena’s composition contains approximately 20 -30% lipids, natural oils which have a high potential for utilization in many bio-energy or bio-materials applications. 

Dr. Suresh Narine, professor of physics & astronomy and chemistry, and Ontario research chair in green chemistry and engineering, will be providing scientific advice on how to maximize the economic value of bi-products created by the Euglena BioFiltration System.

Founded by 20-year-old Adam Noble as a result of research he conducted for the Canada Wide Science Fair while in high school, Noble Purification initially focused on extracting silver nanoparticles from wastewater using Euglena’s unique properties. The company has also announced a new Euglena BioFiltration System, based on research showing that euglena can absorb many different pollutants in water, from phosphates to lead.