Biospherics announced that it has received a patent for producing a low-calorie sugar substitute and that it plans to transfer to a Houston-based company the rights to its patented technology for wastewater treatment.
Following the announcements yesterday, Biospherics stock closed at $6.50, up $1.50.
Biospherics, which is based in Beltsville, provides a broad range of environmental, health and information products and services to governmental agencies and private industry.
Called D-tagatose, Biospherics' new product is a variant of ordinary table sugar and has almost the same degree of sweetness, according to Lee Zehner, director of biotechnology programs at Biospherics.
D-tagatose's advantage is that it provides the same bulk as natural sugar, an important feature in baking.
Based on tests conducted by the company, the substitute does not help make fat but actually burns fat. It did not cause weight gain in test animals, Zehner said.
If approved by the federal government, D-tagatose might become commercially available in five years, he said.
The patented production process of D-tagatose involves the use of whey, a byproduct of cheese production. Whey is a source of sugar called lactose or milk sugar. Milk sugar can be converted to D-galactose. It is the D-galactose that Biospherics converts to tagatose.
Zehner said D-tagatose is already found in the food chain in heat-treated and fermented dairy products like yogurt.
In the announcement on its wastewater treatment, Biospherics said it signed a letter of intent to convey to TETRA Technologies Inc. the patented technology for the removal of nutrient pollutants from municipal wastewater.
Under terms of the agreement, Biospherics will receive cash payments and royalties on sales made by TETRA through the year 2007. Other terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
It is too early to say how much revenue D-tagatose might bring to the company, although such a substitute should have wide market appeal to large food companies, Zehner said. It could also be sold as a table-top sweetener.
The production of D-tagatose should be cheap enough to compete with high-intensity sweeteners that need bulking agents, according Zehner.
Zehner said the company will need about $15 million in initial investment over the next five years to get its sugar substitute product through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.