Until now, chemicals have been the only products available to eliminate waterborne bacterial risk. In France, the small firm Amoéba manufactures an effective, harmless and less corrosive biological biocide.

The wastewater generated by industrial plants contains pathogenic bacteria, such as legionella, which causes legionnaires disease – a potentially fatal illness – and other bacteria like klebsiella, pseudomonas and chlamydia. To eliminate these, over the last century chemical substances such as chlorine/bromine and isothiazolinone have been used. These are toxic for humans and the environment, however.

Around 10 years ago, researchers from Claude Bernard University in Lyon discovered a special amoeba in the thermal baths of Aix-les-Bains. Willaertia magna C2c maky is a natural microorganism that eats these waterborne pathogenic bacteria.

In 2010, Amoéba turned Willaertia magna C2c maky into a highly effective biological biocide, an unparalleled alternative to industrial water treatment. Last week, the company received a EUR 20 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

We are delighted with this sign of confidence in our work. This loan will help us to deploy our natural biocide BIOMEBA”, said Fabrice Plasson, CEO and co-founder of Amoéba.

A revolutionary solution

Mr Plasson was the first to spot the commercial potential of the natural predator Willaertia magna C2c maky. After acquiring the exclusive licence to use the patented technology, he set up the company Amoéba in 2010.

In Chassieu, 10 km east of Lyon, in its first and new production facility inaugurated in October 2016, eight technicians cultivate amoebas in two 500-litre bioreactors. The amoebas are fed in a culture medium and harvested continuously.

The result is the biocide BIOMEBA:

  • a disruptive, biological and innovative product that is effective against waterborne bacteria.
  • which is non-toxic for humans and the environment according to European tests on chemical biocides.

With a high level of automation to ensure 24/7 operations, this natural disruptive technology is meeting its ambitious goal of reindustrialising France through innovation on the biocides market”, said Mr Plasson.

Once they have been cultivated, the amoebas are treated by a centrifuge before being packaged in cubis tanks no bigger than 10-20 litres in size and dispatched rapidly to the customers.

The commercial network is in place

Amoéba has already signed 11 letters of intent and five distribution agreements with water treatment companies in several countries, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and the United States. In addition, the company currently employs six people in Montreal, Canada, to produce biocide in North America. The distribution network is therefore in place.

The EIB loan provides us with capital to expand our production and move on to the marketing stage”, stated Mr Plasson.

We are delighted to provide this development opportunity to an innovative firm whose products offer an effective, natural alternative to existing chemical products that are harmful for the environment in a high-potential market”, said EIB investment officer Julie Chevaillier.

For water treatment companies, the transition to using Amoéba's product instead of chemicals to disinfect water circuits can be implemented rapidly. All that is required is the addition of a pump to inject the biocide into the circuit. Arcelor-Mittal is one of the companies that has tested BIOMEBA along with Häagen-Dazs, Vitacuire and Dalkia.

Seeking to conquer a global market

One advantage is that we no longer use bleach extract”, explained Michel Peytavi, safety and environmental manager at the Arcelor-Mittal site. Less corrosion for the existing structures will increase their longevity.

Another advantage is that “the biofilm containing legionella is treated, added Mr Peytavi. In fact, chemical biocides only treat the water without attacking the biofilm, the slimy coating that covers pipes and conceals dangerous bacteria.

BIOMEBA is joining a global chemical biocides market worth EUR 21 billion. For now, Amoéba is concentrating on the segment of industrial air-cooled towers, cooling systems estimated to be worth EUR 1.7 billion.