Environmentally sustainable commercial adhesive from Purdue is optioned to gluECO Adhesives

Rachel Freedman and Dan Rosen of gluECO evaluate the performance of their bio-based adhesive in preparation of product availability later this year. The company has an option on a Purdue-discovered adhesive from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. (Photo provided by gluECO) Download image

Corn protein called zein forms the basis of the nontoxic adhesive

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A recyclable, compostable and biodegradable adhesive developed by Purdue University researchers has been optioned to Massachusetts-based gluECO Adhesives LLC, which plans an initial line of products in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Traditional adhesives are petroleum-derived, permanent and often toxic. Purdue researchers led by Jonathan Wilker, a professor in Purdue’s College of Science and College of Engineering, created a patent-pending adhesive based on zein, a protein in corn. The adhesive is degradable, nontoxic and tunable, which means it can be adjusted for strength, flexibility and performance in extreme temperature, moisture and high-vibration conditions.

Rachel Freedman and Dan Rosen are co-founders of gluECO Adhesives; Freedman is primary owner and Rosen is the CEO. They realized the need for environmentally friendly adhesives when they prepared to sell their house.

“We were dismayed we could not recycle the hundreds of hardcover books we owned. We found out it was due to the adhesive,” Rosen said. “A few years ago, I came across an article by Jon and had even spoken with him. Rachel and I re-established a relationship with him to learn about his zein-based adhesive.”

The R&D team at gluECO will build on Wilker’s research. Along with zein’s adhesive qualities, products also inherit other qualities of zein, including being a highly effective oxygen and water barrier, and being molded, extruded or spun into filaments.

The company also has entered into an exclusive manufacturing agreement with FloZein Products, the only zein manufacturer in North America. The initial market will be industries and applications that require specialized adhesives.

“Our adhesives will be 100% biobased and food safe. This makes them ideal for any food or pharmaceutical product that may have direct contact with adhesives and packaging. In addition, we are exploring applications where the adhesive acts as a specialty polymer to create composite materials,” Rosen said. “Our R&D team will also develop custom formulations based on inquiries.”

Rosen said gluECO plans to exercise its option and negotiate a license to the zein-based adhesive from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The office manages Purdue University intellectual property, including vetting, applying for protection, marketing and licensing.

“Jon Wilker, my colleagues and I have great respect for Rachel, Dan and their work to address a serious environmental and health problem,” said Joe Kasper, assistant director of business development at OTC. “It is exciting to think about the lives that will be improved by using gluECO’s adhesives in place of traditional petroleum-based adhesives.”

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District at Purdue, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact otcip@prf.org for more information.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last four years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu.

Writer: Steve Martin, sgmartin@prf.org

Source: Rachel Freedman, rfreedman@glueco-adhesives.com