In 1998 I founded ECHOBIO to invent and develop new materials that would transform the world. It was a heady goal but I strongly believed—and still do—that there is an enormous, untapped potential in looking to nature for inspiration and sustainable solutions to technical problems.
The original plan was to develop novel materials for medical applications where the high margins and low volumes would be conducive to starting from scratch with a new material. Once we were successful in these markets, we would work to roll these materials out to other industries where the volumes would be higher to offset the smaller margins.
We got as far as raising money to explore a solution for repairing Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL) using mussel adhesive protein. Inspired by the initial work of Herb Waite, we sought out utilizing a chemical mimic of mussel adhesive protein and began working with Professor Tim Deming. Prof. Deming had successfully isolated a critical component of the protein responsible for the remarkable, aqueous adhesion of mussel adhesive protein. Unfortunately, there were still some missing elements of the process that we needed for a succesful product. Despite several attempts to attach chicken ligaments with our synthetic analogs, we were not able to achieve sufficient bond strengths. We estimated that it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to adequately research and identify the missing chemical elements and that was well beyond the risk tolerance of any investor we could muster at the time.
This vision of “Knee Glue” didn’t make it into the 21st century, but my passion for finding organic solutions lives on.