By: Stacy Wescoe
For much of the last 25 years, Mussel Polymers Inc. CEO, George Boyajian, has worked as a technology executive specializing in breakthrough technologies. Along with his business partner, Mussel CFO Eric Anderson, they have helped launch a number of tech startups.
They were looking for the next tech breakthrough that had a little muscle. What they found was actual mussels that were being used to create an innovative new adhesive that works underwater.
Boyajian said they had pretty strict criteria for what they were looking for in new tech. It had to be innovative, able to be commercialized and financially viable.
“Would people buy it?” he asked.
He and Anderson looked over more than 800 new technologies that were under development at major universities around the country before finding the one that sparked their interest.
Under the direction of Professor Jonathan Wilkers, Purdue University was working to develop an underwater glue using an $8 million grant it received from the U.S. Navy.
With the technology they launched Mussel Polymers Inc at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Tech Ventures facility in Bethlehem.
Boyajian has high hopes for the new adhesive, which chemically mimics the way mussels adhere to surfaces underwater.
Wilkers looked at oysters and barnacles and a lot of other sea creatures that attach themselves to objects underwater. What he found was very complex proteins that secrete from the foot of a mussel and decided that was what he would pursue and replicate.
Boyajian said it’s truly a major innovation.
“There’s never been a glue that works underwater. He figured out how to simplify it and how to make it less costly,” he said. “It’s been 60 years since there’s been a new class of adhesives. The last one was Super Glue.”
The first product Mussel Polymers will be bringing to market is an adhesive designed to work with corals. It can be used by aquarium enthusiasts, but it can also be used for larger-scale reef repair.
“We wanted to do well while doing good,” Boyajian said.
They should also be soon completing a product for the U.S. Navy, which had funded the early research.
Boyajian said Mussel Polymers is also looking to get involved in medical uses.
“Let’s face it, the body is a pretty wet place. You can see how this would be useful in many ways,” he said.
Currently the company is developing a dental cement. Boyajian hopes to have it to market next year, but it first needs approval from the Food & Drug Administration.
Boyajian and his team aren’t the only ones excited about the future of the new technology.
The company recently won Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Venture Idol competition, which awards funding to the best startup pitch.
Anthony Durante, manager of entrepreneurial support for the Partners, who has been working with Mussel Polymers, spoke highly of the company’s prospects.
“We love the adaptability of Mussel Polymers’ product to numerous applications,” said Durante. “But it is the deep experience of the team in commercializing industrial products that made us especially excited about investing in the company."