The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project stems from the fact that pharmaceuticals and herbicides have been detected in some water supplies at concentrations that may have the potential to affect human biology. Furthermore, these contaminants continue to accumulate. Current water bottlers and home filtration systems do not typically remove these chemicals, and the approaches that do sufficiently purify water are expensive and generate large volumes of polluted water as a by-product. There is a significant opportunity for safe, inexpensive, and easily used method to purify water. The innovation is expected to be eventually developed as inexpensive, reusable water filters for home, civic, and commercial use.
This I-Corps project will evaluate the commercialization potential of materials developed in the lab that specifically bind and remove pharmaceutical and herbicide contaminants from water. The material has a unique ability to be functionalized with active proteins by gene fusion, without compromising either materials assembly or the activity of the added protein. These functionalized protein-based materials can specifically remove bioactive contaminants and pharmaceuticals from water. By adding new ligand binding proteins to these materials, the filters developed in this work can be readily adapted to bind a wide variety of chemicals and even toxins with very high affinity and specificity.