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Darren Lutterman and Corey Babcock of Next Generation Power, a subsidiary of Juhl Wind, refurbish a 35 kw wind turbine made in the mid 1980's.

Glen Stubbe, Dml - Star Tribune Star Tribune

Water purifying method now a biz

  • August 15, 2010 - 3:22 PM

A herbicide-cleansing, water-purification technology developed by two University of Minnesota scientists has become a small business launched by two recent graduates of the college of science and engineering, with an assist from the U's Carlson School of Management.

The technology addresses atrazine -- a herbicide widely used by farmers to control broadleaf weeds and grasses in cornfields -- which can pollute groundwater and wells.

U of M biochemist Lawrence Wackett and microbiologist Michael Sadowsky, after several years of research and tinkering, believe they have the solution in what they call a ''biocatalyst-based'' drinking water filtration technology that can reduce atrazine concentrations to acceptable levels.

Joe Mullenbach, a mechanical engineer, and Alex Johansson, a chemist, were intrigued when Sadowsky presented his research.

"It is an exciting technology that solves a difficult problem," said Mullenbach. "We were able to combine the knowledge we gained in both business and engineering classes to create a commercially viable product that solves a significant public health issue."

With help from the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship and the law school, they are transitioning from field studies to commercialization with a company, called NewWater, which has been granted a license to use the university-patented technology.

NewWater's technology, enzymes developed by Wackett and Sadowsky, serves as a catalyst to start bacterial metabolism of atrazine, decomposing it into harmless byproducts. The process does not produce a waste-water stream, and it can be used to treat much lower levels of atrazine than can be achieved with the current solution, activated carbon.

The U of M will be a minority shareholder in the company, which is raising capital.

This is the 10th start-up company based on university technology that has been launched over the past 18 months, according to John Merritt, who works for the vice president of research.

Dinkytown project fully rented

Business is growing at the Doran Cos., a small commercial developer and property manager that has gotten into the rental-housing trade.

CEO Kelly Doran this month completed the $39 million redevelopment of a blighted corner in Dinkytown in southeast Minneapolis into a 125-unit apartment building targeted at University of Minnesota students. The development is adjacent to the renovated "Dinkydome" retail space.

Doran launched the project last year in the early stage of the economic recovery, after a rough time finding lenders amid the credit crunch.

"The project has been completed on time, within budget and all of it units have been rented," Doran said. "That alone is enough to celebrate, but what is really worth celebrating is that we were able to do this project in such an economically depressed environment." 

More than 500 once-idled construction workers were involved. Doran thanked the PrivateBank, the University of Minnesota -- his alma mater, which sold him the land -- and Minneapolis city staff, who got the project approved, as well as his 25 employees.

Doran has broken ground nearby on a 102-unit building on Fourth Street SE. at the site of a former school owned by the American Indian Movement. Doran plans to conserve space for a small museum on land that is considered spiritual grounds. Doran also has a multi-unit residential project underway in Chaska and has a couple of commercial projects in the hopper.

Juhl Wind launches new project

Juhl Wind has signed a $10 million development-and-construction agreement with Gundersen Lutheran Hospital of La Crosse, Wis. The 5-megawatt GL Wind LLC development, to be built across the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota, will be owned by the hospital and other investors, and generate enough electricity to power several thousand homes and businesses. Construction is expected to begin this fall.

"When an institution like Gundersen Lutheran makes a commitment to clean energy and to lead the development of a community wind farm, it makes it so much easier to get a project financed and built," said Juhl, a founding father of Minnesota's wind industry 30 years ago. "Yet again, this project is very representative of a new model for our small to medium-sized wind farm business."

Juhl Wind, a small public company based in southwestern Minnesota, has completed 16 wind farms and provides operations management, oversight and sales and service for various wind and solar installations.

Noted cardiologist named chairman

Dr. Robert Hauser, a well-known cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, has been named chairman of SonoSite Inc., an ultrasound company based in Bothell, Wash. Hauser is no stranger to the business world -- from 1988 to 1992, he was president and CEO of Cardiac Pacemakers Inc., a division of Eli Lilly and Co., before its merger with Guidant Inc. (It's now all part of Boston Scientific Corp.)

Hauser and his colleague Dr. Barry Maron raised questions in 2005 about the safety of a heart defibrillator made by Guidant following the death of a patient. Ultimately, the products were recalled, and Food and Drug Administration scrutinized for the way it tracks implanted medical devices once implanted in patients.

BSX chooses Olson

Boston Scientific's newly merged Cardiology, Rhythm, and Vascular business in the Twin Cities said last week that it has chosen the Minneapolis agency Olson to handle its design, strategy, creative and interactive work.

"Olson's client portfolio is broad and diverse, and because we want our marketing efforts to represent us for what we are -- more than just a medical device company," said Sonia Bjork, marketing communications director for Boston Scientific's CRV business, which employs roughly 5,000 Minnesotans.

Arizona law debate

In a preview of the debate ultimately destined for Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, St. Thomas on Sept. 9 will host a forum featuring national hitters on the legal and ethical boundaries surrounding immigration titled: "Is the New Arizona Law an Appropriate Response?"

Hosted by the university's law school and its Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, the free public forum will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Schulze Grand Atrium in the law school at the downtown campus.

The speakers will include Professor Gabriel (Jack) Chin from the University of Arizona law school; Michael Hethmon, general counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Hall of Fame

The Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business has created the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame to recognize Minnesotans who have been innovators and successful leaders in the field of real estate. Inductees will be enshrined into the Minnesota Hall of Fame on Oct. 27.

NEAL ST. ANTHONY, JANET MOORE

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