December 7, 2023

HelioBioSys awarded nearly $1M grant from the National Science Foundation


Woodside, CA — July 3rd, 2023 — HelioBioSys, Inc., a biotechnology company developing sustainable and scalable methods for producing UV protective compounds, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for nearly $1M. The award supports research and development (R&D) on cultivation scale-up and cost-effective purification of UV protective compounds derived fromHelioBioSys’s non-GMO cyanobacterial platform.

Cyanobacteria evolved to produce one of nature's first sun protective compounds, mycosporine like amino acids (MAAs). MAAs protect them from UV radiation and oxidative stress. The goal of this Phase II grant is to purify these compound sat a commercial scale and at a competitive price. Bringing a new class of effective, safe, natural and sustainably derived compounds that can replace chemical and mineral UV filters to the market will benefit public health by reducing skin cancer rates and skin photoaging, as well as reduce negative impacts on marine environments caused by current sunscreen ingredients.

MAAs, produced by a wide variety of organisms, are nature’s own sunscreen and anti-oxidant. They have a wide range of potential applications, that include not only  sunscreens, but also cosmetics, and material coatings.

“We are excited to receive this prestigious grant from the NSF,” said Rocco Mancinelli, CEO of HelioBioSys. “This funding will allow us to accelerate our research and development efforts and bring these revolutionary molecules to market to create safe and efficient skin and and sun care products.”

HelioBioSys’s non-GMO cyanobacterial platform and purification process is a more sustainable and scalable way to produce MAAs than traditional methods, that rely on expensive equipment and organic solvents. The company’s goal is to make MAAs accessible to consumers by reducing the overall costs of cultivation and purification, and providing a safe, effective alternative to currently available sun care products.

HelioBioSys will collaborate with the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at Arizona State University for the cultivation and analytical research required to scale their technology and demonstrate cost-effective MAA purification.

“This highly-competitive award is a major milestone for HelioBioSys,” said Mancinelli. “It validates our technology and our team, and it puts us on the path to commercializing MAAs and making them available to people all over the world.”


About HelioBioSys

Designed by Nature, Refined by Science™

HelioBioSys uses the power of nature and evolution as manifested in one of Earths oldest family of organisms,Cyanobacteria. Our hand-crafted community of cyanobacteria are robust, resilient and highly productive. We identify compounds that cyanobacteria use to protect themselves from harsh environments, and use science to extract, purify and introduce them into skin and sun care products for the next generation of eco-conscious beauty consumers.

For more information about HelioBioSys Contact:

David Smernoff,

and visit:


America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards$200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact.Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $2 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $9.5 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. For more information, visit


About AzCATI

AzCATI offers innovative research, education and collaboration opportunities that collectively help to advance algae technology platforms. They offer access to world class laboratory and outdoor testbeds, educational opportunities to raise awareness about the benefits of algae technology. AzCATI is embedded within the Fulton Schools ofEngineering at Arizona State University and located on the PolytechnicCampus in Mesa, AZ. For more information about the ArizonaCenter for Algae Technology and Innovation, visit: