Startups Land $450,000 in SBIR Grants

Oregon BEST-supported companies win NSF grants to advance technologies for nontoxic sunscreen ingredients and improved indoor air quality.

With assistance from the SBIR/STTR Support Center operated by Oregon BEST, two Oregon start-up companies have been awarded a total of $450,000 in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Gadusol Laboratories of Corvallis, Ore., received a $225,000 Phase I SBIR grant to advance a technology for producing UV blocking compounds found in marine life that can be used in environmentally friendly, all natural sunscreens. Until now, gadusol, a compound that naturally protects fish from the sun's UV radiation while also potentially offering other skin benefits, has been impossible to sustainably produce.

The startup is using a proprietary technology developed by researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) to grow gadusol in a laboratory environment (company co-founder, Taifo Mahmud, pictured above). These compounds have the potential to replace artificial and sometimes toxic ingredients currently used in sunscreens. One ingredient, oxybenzone, is an endocrine disrupter that contributes to the degradation of coral reefs, and other ingredients have been potentially linked to cancer. Oregon BEST awarded $75,000 of grant funding to OSU in 2016 to further develop the technology.

"Launching any startup is a huge challenge that requires an entire ecosystem of resources, so we're grateful to Oregon BEST for their ongoing support as we develop a cleantech product that has huge potential to eliminate the harmful environmental and health impacts of sunscreen on both humans and the planet," said Katie Pettinger, Gadusol's Managing Director and Cofounder. "Being awarded an SBIR grant at this stage is crucial to our success, and Oregon BEST’s assistance with the application process was invaluable."

Diatomix chemical process illustrationDiatomix, Inc., a Beaverton, Ore., startup, also received a $225,000 Phase I SBIR grant. The company has developed a patent-pending, bio-engineered smart material that improves indoor air quality by adsorbing and then breaking down hazardous, airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The captured VOCs are transformed into harmless carbon dioxide and water (process show, right). Manufacturers can add the material to products such as floor coatings, household cleaners and wall paint, so when consumers apply products containing the Diatomix additive, the coating serves as a smart cleaner, actively improving indoor air quality levels.

"Globally, consumers are starting to realize the extent of airborne VOCs in homes, schools and work places," said Adrian Polliack, CEO of Diatomix. "VOCs are constantly being emitted from sources such as engineered wood products, carpets and most synthetic furnishings, and a number of VOCs are known carcinogens. Oregon BEST was instrumental in providing us support for a successful SBIR application." Diatomix will use the funding to research ways to optimize product performance ahead of commercialization.

"These two Oregon companies are working hard to create a powerful impact on the environment and advance sustainability worldwide," said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. "Oregon BEST is proud to have helped these startups successfully navigate the application and proposal process. That's what our SBIR/STTR Center is all about, and we encourage more startups to take advantage of these services."

Oregon BEST assisted both companies with proposal preparation through its SBIR/STTR Support Center, which is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since 2014, Oregon companies supported by the Oregon BEST center have received more than $3.4 million in federal SBIR/STTR grants.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gregg Kleiner, 541.740.9654
SOURCES: David Kenney, Oregon BEST, 503.780.8736; Katie Pettinger, Gadusol Labs, 412.352.2721; Adrian Polliack, Diatomix, 503.319.3096

About Oregon BEST
An economic development catalyst, Oregon BEST funds and supports innovative cleantech startups across Oregon, connecting these companies with state and federal resources, while preparing them for follow-on investment through a series of focused programs. Oregon BEST provides leadership and leverages its expertise, resources and relationships to achieve impact beyond its scale. Founded in 2007, Oregon BEST is an independent nonprofit supported by the Oregon Innovation Council and Business Oregon. Learn more at