Announcing the Genesis Program’s Investment in Portunus

On behalf of the Genesis Program, I am thrilled to announce our recent investment in Portunus. Portunus aims to be a more environmentally friendly producer of chitosan and calcium carbonate in Brazil.

The Problem

Chitosan is a polysaccharide extracted from the chitin shells of crustaceans for a wide array of applications in several industries including agriculture and medicine. Currently, chitosan is produced through the deacetylation of chitin using sodium hydroxide in excess as a reagent and water as a solvent. The current acid-base extraction process employs harsh chemicals at elevated temperatures for a prolonged time, chemicals which impact environmental health. As a result, research on the bioextraction of chitin from crustacean shell waste has increased significantly. Bioextraction of chitin is cleaner, more eco-friendly, and much more economically viable.

While Portunus capitalizes on this research on the bioextraction of chitosan, that wasn’t where the venture started. Portunus came out of a separate project in Brazil as the team was attempting to reduce the environmental impact of pit mining limestone by finding a novel way to produce calcium carbonate. Through the research involved in this project, the team stumbled upon another use for crustacean shells in the production of chitosan. They created a proprietary method to augment existing microorganism mediated fermentation processes to extract more value in the form of chitosan and calcium carbonate from these crustacean shells.

The Founders

From Left to Right: Eduardo Longoria, Isis Eich, and Fabian Hernandez

Portunus was founded by Eduardo Longoria, Isis Eich, and Fabian Hernandez. The team met through a recent Exosphere program in Brazil where they worked on the aforementioned project related to reducing pit mining of limestone.

Eduardo Longoria serves as the CEO of Portunus. He is pursuing a B.S. in Biology at the University of Texas at Austin and serves as a board member for the ATX Hackerspace. With his vast experience in biological and chemical processes he is sure to bring innovative approaches to Portunus as it grows.

Isis Eich is a Co-founder at Portunus. She is the Provost of the Exosphere Academy and Interim Dean of Synthetic Biology and Ecology. She is critical to business development, as Portunus navigates Brazilian business infrastructure and networking with the agricultural industry and municipal governments.

Fabian Hernandez is another Co-founder of Portunus. Fabian Hernandez graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the National University of Colombia and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in bioinformatics. He will lead Portunus’ efforts to service the Colombian pharmaceutical industry.

How’re They Doing?

Portunus’ Chitosan Production in Progress!

Portunus continues to work hard to refine its proprietary chitosan and calcium carbonate production process. The company is working to secure strong partnerships with agricultural customers in Brazil by running limited trials in the near future. The team’s long-term vision is to out-compete traditional chemical production and make the markets for chitosan and calcium carbonate more environmentally friendly.

Why I Led This Deal by Catherine Cheng, Due Diligence Analyst

Portunus showed great potential to disrupt the old industry of chitosan production through novel bio-extraction production methods. I was excited not only by the novelty of the technical application but by Eduardo’s drive to succeed and business acumen. He was eager to learn and improve in order to make his vision a reality. He has grit: he started production before receiving any capital and has already developed important, market-launching connections in Brazil for his first round of production samples. This deal marks the first venture in the biochemical and processing space backed by Genesis and the team is incredibly excited to see what Portunus accomplishes.