BTEC helps start-up build its business—brick by brick

AgBiome employees in growth chamber lab
bioMASON founder Ginger Krieg Dosier and BTEC Associate Director for Strategic Programs Rick Lawless show a culture plate with bacterial cells grown at BTEC. The cells are used in a novel biotechnology process to manufacture bricks. Photo courtesy of Ginger Krieg Dosier.

When Ginger Krieg Dosier moved to North Carolina from the United Arab Emirates in 2012, she made sure to pack her favorite travel accessory: a brick. She had “grown” that brick using bacteria and sand. A year later, she founded bioMASON, Inc., and found herself looking at a long list of start-up requirements: laboratories, equipment, testing, people, and expertise. “Luckily, I visited BTEC during one of my early scouting trips and met with [Associate Director] Rick Lawless to discuss how to scale and optimize our microorganisms,” says Dosier, an architect and former visiting assistant professor at the NC State University College of Design.

Since then, under a variety of contractual agreements, BTEC has provided bioprocess testing services, developed large-scale fermentation and recovery processes as part of a sponsored project agreement, and offered some of its flexible laboratory space at the BTEC Annex in the Keystone Science Center on Centennial Campus. “We’ve been able to leverage over $1 million of state-of-the-art bioprocessing equipment at the two BTEC facilities for pennies on the dollar. Without BTEC’s help, we wouldn’t have been able to meet our early growth milestones and gain rapid knowledge of fermentation. bioMASON would have had to spend considerable time and investment in high capital equipment at an early stage,” adds Dosier.

Her company is manufacturing a greener brick with its biological-based technology. The firm’s proprietary process uses bacteria and readily available materials to produce bricks—without the greenhouse gases released during the manufacture of traditional kiln-fired bricks. bioMASON’s novel technology has won numerous awards and grants, including first prize at the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in Amsterdam, the Cradle-to-Cradle Product Innovation Challenge, and an SBIR Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation.

BTEC will continue to supply bacterial cells to bioMASON while the company continues to develop its commercial products and services.