This week we’re traveling to London, where a company started as a team participating in the well-known iGEM competition is working to make a reality of their project to clean toxic micropollutants from water with the help of bacteria. 

CustoMem synbio startup Bacterial Membrane

Mission: CustoMem is a startup using synthetic biology to create cellulose membranes to remove toxins from water. The technology can be used to create customized membranes that are selective for specific pollutants that are particularly difficult to remove using traditional methods, such as hormones or heavy metals.

The young company has won several awards and has already started 3 commercial trials with industrial partners to test the membranes. So far, CustoMem reports that its membranes can run for up to a year and capture over 90% of the pollutant in under 10 seconds.

Comment: It’s absolutely amazing to see the iGEM competition promoting the creation of projects that take the science one step further and make real-life solutions for global problems. In the case of CustoMem, its technology could help the health and well-being of many — especially as the world’s population keeps growing, and so does our waste — while making it simpler. The company’s website has an interesting way to put it, calling the membranes “an industrial-scale Brita water filter.”


Images via josefkubes / Shutterstock

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