Researchers studying materials from lignin

LSU Agricultural Center researchers are part of a team of scientists at LSU and the University of Kentucky who received a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation Experimental Program to create a new class of materials made from lignin, a byproduct of the biofuels, pulp and paper, and sugar cane industries.

“We are looking to add value to an otherwise low-value product,” said Dorin Boldor, of the AgCenter's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, who is the lead scientist on the grant. “At the same time, this will help young researchers become successful in a bio-based economy. This grant will allow them to pursue research avenues that will place them at the forefront of their field.”

With this grant, the scientists hope to develop a process to deconstruct the complex structure of lignin into simple molecules, then reconstruct it into macromolecules that can be used for various purposes.

The resulting materials, which would include thin films, membranes and nanoparticles, could have biomedical or industrial applications, such as water purification and energy storage or the creation of new types of antimicrobials, Boldor said.

Researchers at the AgCenter and the University of Kentucky will work on deconstruction. Kentucky is responsible for reconstructing the macromolecules and will determine several end-user applications. Sue Nokes and Bert Lynn are the lead researchers at Kentucky.

Cristina Sabliov, a researcher in the AgCenter's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, will investigate the use of these macromolecules on a nanoscale.

Dorel Moldovan, a professor in LSU College of Engineering Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, will conduct molecular simulations to model the interaction of the molecules, which will help with understanding interactions in a variety of environments.

The researchers have industry partners, including the Louisiana Forestry Association, the Louisiana Chemical Manufacturing Initiative and the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers.

The researchers are working with faculty at Southern University and Kentucky State University to increase the exposure of research results, Boldor said. The grant will fund graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at all institutions involved.

Atelier Vie expands market to Mississippi

Atelier Vie's distillery has expanded distribution to Mississippi.

“Mississippi is right next door to Louisiana and we’ve been working on getting into Mississippi for a long time,” said Jedd Haas, president of Atelier Vie. “We’ve had numerous visitors from Mississippi come to the distillery over the years. They all ask when they’ll be able to buy our spirits at their local stores."

While distribution in many states, including Louisiana, is handled by private distributors, Mississippi is a “control” state where the state purchases and distributes spirits to private retailers. Atelier Vie has appointed Steve Tonore & Associates as its Mississippi broker to solicit orders from retailers. All Atelier Vie spirits are now available from the Special Order Desk of the Mississippi ABC.

The first stores are in Starkville, Meridian, Vicksburg, Ocean Springs, Jackson and Ridgeland.

Applicants sought for 'BioChallenge'

The New Orleans BioInnovation Center is accepting applications for its fifth annual BioChallenge.

Louisiana bioscience startups compete for over $50,000 in prizes in the business competition. Startups are eligible if they are developing a solution in health care, biotechnology, environmental science or other life sciences industries. Companies must have received no more than $1 million in investments and must have significant operations in the state, since one of the competition’s objectives is to foster emerging businesses that will generate jobs and economic growth in Louisiana.

Each applicant should submit an executive summary by Sept. 15 describing the company and problem being solved. Instructions are available at www.neworleansbio.com/biochallenge/.

Applications will be scored by independent judges on criteria including market analysis and management team. Top-scoring finalists will receive pitch coaching by the center’s commercialization consulting team.

The final public pitch event will be held Nov. 16 at the Joy Theater, with each entrepreneur making an eight-minute pitch to a panel of investors, who will select the $25,000 Grand Prize winner. Two additional prizes are available: the New Orleans BioFund Prize, a $25,000 investment, and the Audience Favorite Award, $2,500 cash given to the winner of a text vote by audience members.

Waitr acquires Calif. restaurant app firm

Waitr, a Lake Charles-based mobile app providing on-demand restaurant ordering, delivery and take out, has acquired Requested Inc., a California mobile app that enables people to book restaurant reservations and “dine and dash” with the payment, including gratuity, through the app.

The acquisition complements Waitr's growth in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama, officials said.

"Our two companies have a shared vision for transforming the restaurant dining experience and expanding restaurant business beyond physical boundaries, and allows us to bring exciting new features to hundreds of thousands of loyal Waitr customers," said Chris Meaux, founder/CEO of Waitr. “Adding the Requested team allows us to add new features, sell more restaurants and expand our business into new markets. In the next 12 months, we’ll move into 30 to 40 cities and another 40 to 60 cities in the 12 months after that.”

Waitr has over 750 restaurants under contract and 30 more added each week.

Redhawk signs U.K. licensing agreement

RedHawk Holdings Corp. in Youngsville announced that EcoGen Europe Ltd. has signed an exclusive agreement to license and supply a generic spray formulation of Sildenafil Citrate in the United Kingdom.

Sildenafil, developed by Pfizer Inc. and sold as Viagra and other trade names, is a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

EcoGen will market the new spray under the brand name Azulvig. EcoGen expects to begin marketing the Azulvig in about 12 months after receipt of final U.K. regulatory approval.

Redhawk owns a 25 percent ownership interest in EcoGen.

While waiting on final U.K. approvals, the company said it will work with the LSU Innovation Center and the LSU Health Sciences Center to develop the most effective marketing strategy for Azulvig.

Boyd Group opens Slidell collision center

The Boyd Group Inc. has opened a collision repair center in Slidell near the intersections of interstates 10 and 12.

The Boyd Group, directly and through subsidiaries, is one of the largest operators of non-franchised collision repair centers in North America in locations and sales. The company operates locations in five Canadian provinces under the trade name Boyd Autobody & Glass, as well as in 20 U.S. states under the trade name Gerber Collision & Glass.

The company also is a major retail auto glass operator in the U.S. with locations across 31 states under the trade names Gerber Collision & Glass, Glass America, Auto Glass Service, Auto Glass Authority and Autoglassonly.com. The company also operates a third-party administrator, Gerber National Claims Services which offers first notice of loss, glass and related services. GNCS has about 5,500 affiliated glass provider locations and 4,600 affiliated emergency roadside services providers throughout the U.S.

Pitch contest targets equitable education

Propeller and 4.0 Schools are accepting applications for PitchNOLA: Education, a business pitch competition that will award $10,000 in total funding to entrepreneurial solutions for equitable educational outcomes for all New Orleanians.

Applicants who apply online before 11:59 p.m. Sept. 12 will receive feedback to help strengthen their application in advance of the final deadline on Sept. 27.

A widening achievement gap, divided across lines of both race and income, as well as high rates of youth unemployment indicate there is still work to be done from the gains of post-Katrina education reform. PitchNOLA: Education seeks solutions to measurably improve educational outcomes for New Orleans’ most vulnerable student populations, as well as ideas with sustainable revenue streams.

Nonprofits, for-profits, individuals and organizations can apply. For existing for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations with over $50,000 in 2015 revenues, the proposed idea must be a new idea that is not currently implemented.

A question-and-answer session for applicants will be held 4:30-5:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Propeller Incubator, 4035 Washington Ave.

Propeller will select 10 semi-finalists on the basis of potential social impact, financial sustainability and viability. They will pitch their solutions to a panel of judges and over 200 audience members at the Propeller Incubator on Nov. 3. Tickets are free and open to the public at Eventbrite.