NECi Superior Enzymes
NECi Superior Enzymes, previously `The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc.`, is a woman-owned small business located in Michigan`s Upper Peninsula. NECi`s specialty is designing and producing recombinant proteins for inclusion in quantification test kits. Our focus is applying biotechnology methodology to improve analytical chemistry for citizen monitoring, quality control, and beyond. We develop and manufacture enzymes for green analytical chemistry. Our enzymes are reagent grade, meaning that they are manufactured according to strict standards and protocols, ensuring lot-to-lot consistency and ultimate QA/QC.
Find locations served, office locations and our distributors
- Business Type:
- Industry Type:
- Water Monitoring and Testing
- Market Focus:
- Globally (various continents)
- Year Founded:
- less than $1,000,000 US
This company also provides solutions for other industrial applications.
Please, visit the following links for more info:
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze biological reactions. The chemistry of life is complex. Enzymes lower energy barriers so reactions occur naturally, in water, without excess heat or pressure. For every chemical reaction that occurs in life, there's an enzyme that specializes in making that process quick and easy. An enzyme 'finds' its target in complex mixtures: resulting in specificity, selectivity, and sensitivity. The nitrate reductase from plants - our first enzyme product - reduces nitrate to nitrite, a first step in the chain that turns the elements into proteins and DNA. We eat NaR every day. NaR replaces cadmium, zinc, or vanadium reagents for reliable and environmentally benign nitrate measurement, in any lab format and for on-site nitrate testing of anything aqueous.
We've been developing enzyme reagents for analytical chemists since 1993. Our mission is to build methods that anyone can use to monitor water quality, the environment, industrial processes, agriculture, aquaculture, academic research and more. Our philosophy is that these methods should have minimal impact on people and the environment while providing accurate and reliable data that can be trusted. Our nitrate detection reagents and test kits are moving from cutting edge to state-of-the-art. Now it's time for us to introduce new products for measurement of phosphate, glycerol, galactose, and alcohol. And to make all of our Test-it-Yourself kits more useful, we've developed a low-cost handheld photometer that interfaces with mobile devices to analyze results.
Biotechnology People Can Use
Why perform analytical testing if it's not going to be accurate or reliable? Enzyme based analytical chemistry offers superior accuracy and reliability while curbing environmental impact, because enzymes are the natural catalysts that exist within nearly every living system to perform specific duties. This makes them excellent candidates as analytical chemistry tools. Here at NECi Superior Enzymes, we develop and produce recombinant, reagent grade enzymes which are formatted for laboratory scientists, automated instruments, citizen monitors, educators, and others. We are committed to advancing analytical chemistry technologies to keep up with a modern world.
We believe in providing tools for analytical chemistry that anyone can use. We strive for a 'Test it Yourself' mentality within our community, encouraging citizen science, increasing knowledge of the invisible world around us.
Why waste time testing if the results might be inaccurate? We believe in actionable data - reliable answers that can be used to make important decisions across many applications.
Freely flowing knowledge benefits collaboration, which benefits everyone. Open source technology makes science more accessible to all.
NECi Superior Enzymes began life in 1993 as The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc. to commercialize a 'battery-powered' enzyme system for removal of nitrate from drinking water. The key enzyme was nitrate reductase (NaR), the focus of Dr. W.H. (Bill) Campbell's academic research on plant metabolism. The work was published in Nature and attracted a flurry of inquiries - plus a market for nitrate reductase. Dr Campbell and Ellen R. Campbell plunged headlong into the business world. Within a few years, it became clear that the timeline for a practical drinking water treatment system remained far in the future - but it also became clear that nitrate reductase could replace cadmium or other metals in widely used methods for detection of nitrate. The Campbells redirected their focus to analytical chemistry.
Enzymes are great for analytical chemistry: they are safer for the user, accurate in complex mixtures, and environmentally benign. However, production of proteins from their native sources ranges from impractical to impossible: for example, seeds for the unique feed corn cross that produces enough nitrate reductase for R&D became unobtainable by 1995. Weeks of intense effort were required to produce enough corn seedlings to yield a milligram or two of purified enzyme. By the late 1990s, it was clear that a time would come when NECi would not be able to meet demand for nitrate reductase.
Dr. Campbell's academic research moved early into recombinant protein expression. These new technologies were migrated to NECi's scientists, thanks to a grant from NIH in 1998. The first recombinant nitrate reductase was released to the market in 2001. NECi's recombinant nitrate reductase is a reliable and cost-effective reagent for nitrate detection. Enzyme-based nitrate detection is now a standard method with the US Geological Survey and ASTM International. NECi's nitrate reductase dominates the biomedical research market for nitric oxide synthase activity kits. Standard method status for regulatory compliance under the US EPA's Clean Water and Safe Drinking Acts is slated for 2016.
NECi Superior Enzymes has focused on making its nitrate assay the best there is, in the lab and in the field. Now we're addressing this question: If nitrate reductase works so well, what other enzymes can do the trick for measuring other analytes? The answers are in our work today, designing and making recombinant reagent grade enzymes, test methodologies, and tools to analyze the invisible world around us.
In the mid-1970's, Dr. Wilbur H. Campbell was completing his final post-doctorate degree from Michigan State University, where he began studying Nitrate Reductase in soybean cotyledons. By 1979, Dr. Campbell was working as an assistant professor of Chemistry at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, specializing in the biochemistry of nitrogen metabolism in plants. At the same time, Ellen Campbell had began an internship in the pharmacology department of SUNY's medical school, where she had discovered research after realizing her interest in chemistry from studying herbal medicine. Here they met, later got married in 1981, then left for a sabbatical in Germany six months later. A few years later, Dr. Bill Campbell accepted a position in the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Ellen became Bill's laboratory manager, and together they set up facilities to conduct monoclonal antibody and molecular biology research from scratch, neither having any experience doing so. They were successful, as Dr. Campbell's publication record shows.
Enzymes from Corn Seedlings
During the late 1980's, a small business in Germany, MoBiTech, contacted the Campbell's about purchasing nitrate reductase purified from corn seedlings using monoclonal antibodies to use in their work on an immobilized enzyme system for the removal of nitrate from drinking water. The Campbells saw this as an opportunity to fund a couple of work-study students at their laboratory at MTU, so they developed a bench-scale enzyme production system. This would satisfy research requirements for structure/function studies as well as provide extra protein for the small research company in Germany. Together, Dr. Bill Campbell and MoBiTech published a paper on the nitrate removal system in Nature in 1991 while the Campbell's were on sabbatical in Stockholm. In 1992, The New York Times interviewed Dr. Bill Campbell about the nitrate removal system and published the article in the SCIENCE WATCH section on March 10th. Following the publication, they received an influx of letters and calls from wastewater treatment plant managers, owners of residential communities, and concerned homeowners looking for a means to remove nitrate from drinking water. The Campbell's had no idea that nitrate was a serious issue.
The Nitrate Removal System
The Campbells incorporated as a Michigan Subchapter S in May 1993 as The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc (NECi) hoping to sell an immobilized enzyme system for the removal of nitrate from drinking water based on the Nature paper a few years down the line. Sigma Chemical Company was NECi's first customer, and they acquired a small loan from a local bank for start-up funds. In 1995, NECi received their first SBIR grant from the U.S. EPA for developing the nitrate removal system and gained two new customers who purchased Nitrate Reductase for their own nitric oxide research products. After learning more about the water treatment market, the Campbell's decided that bootstrapping was not a viable option.
Commercializing Enzymes for Nitrate Testing
The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc. decided to concentrate on selling enzymes for nitrate detection while developing the water treatment technology. Nitrate is a potential environmental contaminant that must be monitored and controlled in drinking water, groundwater, and waste water. It is considered a 'primary contaminant' that all water systems and industrial effluents are required to measure. The most widely used and accepted method uses the toxic heavy metal cadmium to convert nitrate to nitrite, which then is analyzed using color reagents. The founders of NECi discovered that nitrate reductase could replace cadmium in this reaction, so they decided to focus their attention on commercializing a nitrate analysis method using environmentally benign enzymes. These enzymes were extracted and purified from corn seedlings using monoclonal antibodies during the early stages of the company.
Grants Make for Continuing Research
In 1996, the USDA granted NECi Phase I and Phase II SBIR funding to develop easy to use nitrate test kits for the consumer market for the use in households and on farms. Salaries paid to the Campbell's from the SBIR awards got fed back into the business for further development. YSI, Inc., a company selling environmental and industrial monitoring devices began using NECi for contract enzyme production for their biosensor products. By the end of the 1990's, NECi grew out of their facilities and bought Lake Linden's old post office, built in 1932, for a deal. NECi acquired a Phase I grant from the DOE in 2001 for the development of a nitrate biosensor, and applied for a working capital loan from the local economic development organization. A methods development chemist from the US Geological Survey began working on adapting nitrate reductase to automated laboratory analyzers (segmented flow injection analyzers and discrete analyzers).
Recombinant Protein Expression
NECi started running out of nitrate reductase to sell - purification from corn seedlings couldn't keep up with the demand. A grant from the NIH SBIR program funded expression of Nitrate Reductase in the Pichia pastoris protein production system. Dr. Bill Campbell's academic research was established in these new techniques. Nitrate reductase is a large and complex dimer which requires three cofactors for catalytic activity, so it wasn't possible to make using E. coli, which was the vector of choice at the time. No one had tried expressing anything as complex as Nitrate Reductase into any system by the year 2000, so NIH gladly funded the pioneer project. By 2002, NECi offered the first recombinant form of Nitrate Reductase, YNaR, and a second more optimized form, AtNaR, a couple of years later. The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc. developed a new logo shortly thereafter to begin marketing their products under the brand name 'NECi' to reflect on the company's history while not implying a nitrate removal system but rather a nitrate testing system.
In 2003, small profits were finally being made rather than requiring more personal investment to grow, and a wing was added to the building to expand product assembly and shipping functions. Over the years, NECi acquired more funding and awards to continue developing enzyme-based methods for analytical chemistry. In 2010, the USDA funded research on an enzyme to be employed in field kits for agricultural use. In 2013, the USDA granted NECi Phase I funding to develop an enzyme-based glycerol detection method. In 2014, The National Science Foundation granted NECi with funds to develop a handheld photometer for field testing phosphate and nitrate in soil samples. By 2015, it was clear that The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc.'s name no longer reflected its direction, but its rich history. The Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc. re-branded to NECi Superior Enzymes, developed a new focus and logo, and bought the historic bank building in Lake Linden in preparation for expansion.
Analytical chemistry plays an important role in the complex issues that are relevant to the environment, public health, food security, and beyond. One of the biggest challenges today is located at the center of these three areas of interest, sometimes referred to as the water-food-energy nexus. Nitrogen and phosphorus containing fertilizers are used for optimal crop growth, but in excess can pollute nearby waterways through runoff, compromising public and environmental health. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential nutrients for plant growth. As essential plant nutrients, they ensure that crops can grow to their optimal potential, providing food and bio-energy resources. What happens after the nutrients leave the field? They runoff into nearby waterways, and again, as essential plant nutrients, contribute to algal growth as well. When a surge of these nutrients hits a large area, huge toxic algal blooms can occur, creating dead zones in large bodies of salt and fresh water. Excess nitrate in drinking water can pose health threats, especially to infants and the elderly.
As a means of enforcement to protect public and environmental health, the U.S. EPA initiated the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act to set limits on the amount of nitrate, phosphate, and other compounds present in environmental and drinking water. Recently, heavy pressure has been laid on the agricultural industry to limit the input of nutrients applied to fields. Whether it's in national laboratories or out in the fields, the only way to know how much is there and how much should be added is to first test and know how much of each compound is where.
The traditional method for measuring nitrate is the cadmium reduction method, which uses the toxic heavy metal cadmium. We've invented a new method to quantify nitrate that uses an enzyme. This method is safer, greener, more accurate, sensitive, and reliable. Enzymes are incredible biological machines that happen to make excellent tools for analytical chemistry.
Why reagent grade enzymes for analytical chemistry?
- SELECTIVITY Enzymes are able to find their substrate in complex mixtures
- SPECIFICITY Enzymes only react with their substrate in the presence of other compounds
- SENSITIVITY Enzymes find even the tiniest amount of their substrate in a scarce sample
- SAFETY Enzymes react in gentle conditions, are non-toxic, and environmentally benign
enzymes make the world go 'round
Enzymes are protein catalysts that speed up the myriad of biochemical reactions that make life possible. Enzyme reactions occur in gentle, biological conditions: no toxic solvents, high heat or pressure, no heavy metals involved, no side effects. They're the naturally occurring biological robots that are programmed to carry out highly specific tasks under very specific conditions in all living systems. Enzymes are made of a long string of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, that react with each other to give shape to a three dimensional structure. Each enzyme only reacts with a specific starting molecule called a substrate using a highly specialized and uniquely shaped binding site - like a lock and key, a hand in a glove, or two fitting puzzle pieces. Once their substrate is bound, catalysis converts the substrate into a new molecule, called a product, which occurs a million times faster than it would without the enzyme. After this is complete, the enzyme releases the newly formed product and is ready to begin the process again, which usually occurs within milliseconds. Because of this unique and highly specific process that occurs under biological conditions, enzymes are the optimal tools for green analytical chemistry: accurate, reliable, specific, sensitive, environmentally benign, biodegradable, and non-toxic.
Native enzymes are the naturally occurring catalysts that help all types of biological systems perform their routine functions, such as food digestion, DNA replication, enzyme production, and more. Although these native enzymes work seamlessly in their respective biological systems, they might not be practical to be used as tools for other projects. Plus, it requires a lot of work to get the enzymes from their native source, and variability between copies of the same enzyme is common. Even a change to one amino acid can be detrimental to the enzyme's structure and ability to perform its duties. This is where recombinant protein technology comes in. If the gene sequence of the desired enzyme is known, scientists can manipulate the DNA to craft a recombinant version that has certain desired traits. The recombinant DNA is then inserted into tiny organisms, mostly yeast or bacteria, to use that cell's machinery to produce the same enzyme every time.
NECi manufactures recombinant enzymes using reagent grade sugars, salts, and buffers in a tightly controlled closed fermentation system. This guarantees lot-to-lot consistency between batches of enzymes, providing truly reagent grade analytical tools to be used in our products.
We are an environmental biotechnology company that creates 'reagent grade' enzymes crafted for analytical chemistry. We are dedicated to the application of biotechnology to the solution of environmental problems. Our nitrate determination products are reliable, cost-effective, and safe for you and the environment.
Our company develops and produces recombinant and native enzyme reagents for analytical chemistry. Enzymes are protein catalysts that speed up the myriad reactions that make life possible. Our reagent grade products and test kits are designed from the bottom up for safe use, storage, export, and disposal.
Enzyme-based analytical chemistry has real benefits:
- Selectivity – Enzymes are able to find “targets” in complex mixtures, reducing sample prep time
- Sensitivity – Enzymes offer low detection limits in complex mixtures
- Specificity – Enzymes react ONLY with the target to be analyzed
- Safety – Enzyme-based analysis involves only non-toxic reagents
- No high heat or pressure, heavy metals, or solvents involved
We Currently Offer Nitrate Reductase for Nitrate Analysis in Various Forms:
- Simplified test kits for users with no lab training
- Reagent packs for micro-plate readers and discrete analyzers for high throughput labs
- Reagents and reagent packs for laboratories with spectrophotometers and other neccesary lab equipment
- Nitrate Testing in Agriculture
- Nitrate Toxicity to Livestock
- Deciding What Kit to Use
- National Atmospheric Deposition Program Maps
- United States Drought Map
- Livestock Feed Toxicity Table
- Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator
- Concepts and Rational for Regional Nitrogen Rate Guidelines for Corn
- Fertilizer Use Responsible For Increase In Nitrous Oxide In Atmosphere
- Drying Samples to Constant Weight for Quantitative Results (Soil, Plants, Compost, etc.)
- Soil Sample Preparation for Low Range Nitrate Analysis
- Soil Sample Preparation for Standard Range Nitrate Analysis
- EP Online:Smarter Nutrient Management For Water Utilities Examined
- Nutrient Stewardship: '4Rs'
- Nitrate & Your Health
- Human Drinking Water Toxicity Table
- Prenatal Nitrate Intake From Drinking Water and Selected Birth Defects in Offspring of Participants
- Focus 10,000 (Minnesota's Lakeside Magazine) Article: Focus on Nitrate and Health
- PEDIATRICS Journal September 2005: Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of DIetary Nitrate in Food and Water
- Nitrate Analysis Methods
- Nitrate Analysis in Discrete Analyzers
- Automated Nitrate Analysis
- Phosphate Molar PPM Conversion Chart
- NECi Protocol: Preparation of Plant Samples for Nitrate Analysis (Boiling Method)
- Phosphate Determination Enzyme Update: PNP/MESG Stability Study Report March 2014
- Comparison of Manual and Discrete Analyzer Methods For Enzymatic Nitrate Analysis: Abstract