Bulking Up: Nicholas Center Students Recommend Next Steps for WARF’s Soy Protein Purification Process

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers are constantly innovating. WARF, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund, strives to share these innovations with the rest of the world through monetizing and commercializing the researchers’ intellectual property. In one of many instances of consulting with the Nicholas Center, WARF recently approached second-year Nicholas Center students with a cutting-edge approach for processing soy that removes the beany, grassy flavor while keeping the high protein content.

The team’s first step entailed assessing what hurdles needed to be overcome to commercialize this new process. Focusing their efforts on the scalability of the process, the team dug deep into the science and practical implications involved. They discovered a crucial barrier in the form of an enzyme shortage. One particular enzyme necessary for the process is available, but the process would require liquid tanker trucks full of this enzyme, and it is currently only available in test-tube size quantities. This makes the process cost-prohibitive at present due to the inability to scale the process to a commercial size.

However, the team did discover that should this hurdle be overcome, a substantial market exists for the kinds of products this process would yield. The team found an ideal market segment for this process in the food space in which high-density protein content with neutral or positive flavors was needed.

Ultimately, the team recommended that WARF partner with a company in the food producing space that could help them conquer the enzyme issue and shepherd the development of the process from FDA approval all the way through consumer panel testing. This partner could then help them capture the market segment the team had identified. The WARF representatives appreciated the presentation and found the original thinking beneficial for guiding their next steps.