Wilmington-based SeaTox Research Inc.
and its project partners received an almost $1.5 million grant to develop test kits to help identify toxin-producing algal blooms in Alaska’s commercial shellfish, according to a news release.
The award is titled the Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) grant from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
SeaTox’s project is through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Kodiak Area Native Association.
The $1.5 million is a five-year grant to help fund the project, which involves SeaTox developing a testing mechanism to be used in Alaska to test commercial shellfish that could be contaminated with deadly algal toxins, SeaTox cofounder Sam McCall said Tuesday.
The project is an effort to protect residents of Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska, who experience heightened levels of paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, according to SeaTox. These poisonings are deadly to humans and are caused by eating shellfish contaminated by harmful algae, according to Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
As little as one milligram of the toxin is enough to kill an adult.
Work will begin on the project toward the end of the year, McCall said. NOAA connected SeaTox with the University of Alaska, due to the Kodiak area’s high levels of algal toxins.
McCall plans on going to Alaska to train researchers and interpret data from the project in late spring, he said.
SeaTox was founded in 2013 by husband-and-wife biologists Sam and Jennifer McCall. The company is based in UNCW’s CREST Research Park in Myrtle Grove along the Intracoastal Waterway. The company focuses on drug discovery, development of natural products into new bio-actives and development of facilitated testing methods for toxins that can contaminate commercial seafood.