Tech Profile: Irvine Start-up Seeks Research Partners for Mixed Liquor Diagnostic System

We are applying innovations from the medical sciences to the water environment. We’re focusing on the 28 microbes that cause bulking and foaming.

This Q&A is with Joe Nadolski of Neptune Diagnostics, a company spun off from UC Irvine’s water research laboratories. The company is actively looking for operators and researchers at wastewater treatment plants who are willing to assist in the product development process. The company needs to conduct field trials and demonstrate the effectiveness of their technology. The technology can help with laboratory analysis and help prevent bulking and foaming.

To offer your facility as a test site or to learn more please contact: Joe Nadolski,  Neptune Diagnostics, 760-809-6342

  1. Why did your company get started and why enter the wastewater sector?
    I think everyone on our team is excited to work in the wastewater sector – being part of the effort to manage water resource better; ensuring all the world’s citizens have access to clean water and proper sanitation.

    Our company is moving a promising innovation from UC Irvine out of primary research into the industry.With Neptune Diagnostics, operators will have better situational awareness, which will help them optimize treatment processes and potentially create a lot of savings.

    Our vision is to provide tools to help facilities prevent problems from happening instead of curing them after happening, helping make wastewater facilities more sustainable and efficient.We believe molecular tools are the future for this industry.

  2. What’s unique about your technology?
    Our technology is perhaps not novel, but incremental. We are applying innovations from the medical sciences to the water environment. We are marrying molecular diagnostics to help advance the work of others before us in the industry such Dr. David Jenkins (from UC Berkeley).

    We are using molecular diagnostics to provide rapid results and provide information so plant operators can have better situational awareness and anticipate needs and actions to avoid problems instead of reacting to problems.

  3. How does it work?
    Our system analyses a mixed liquor sample. A molecular test looks for the DNA of specific bacteria. Currently operators check mixed liquor by microscope – but that’s subjective and time consuming.

    We use reverse hybridization, extract DNA and amplify it so we can detect small concentrations of microbes. We do an analysis to find out the types of bacteria and determine how much is present. Our system will see problem bacteria before the operator does.

    Right now the system is in our laboratory but once developed it will be an on-site system.We’re focusing on the 28 microbes that cause bulking and foaming, but plan to add tests for additional microbes such as nitrifying bacteria, phosphorus accumulating organism, denitrifying phosphorus accumulating organisms, sulfur-reducing bacteria, and pathogens.

  4. Why are you seeking research partnerships and what are the parameters for your research?
    We are seeking partners to be part of our demonstration phase. We seek treatment plants that had problems with bulking or foaming in the past. We are looking for treatment plants to provide samples as well as operational data on a regular basis during our demonstration period that will last about a year. Their expertise will help us create better tools for the industry.

    While we have won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research Phase 1 award we are preparing for submission for a Phase 2 award which is based on a commercialization plan. NSF has a phase 1b program that keeps efforts going. It is a matching award.

    We are looking for a commercial partner or partners to invest $60,000 and NSF will match with $30,000 providing a total of $90,000 which allows us to keep our lab operating and keep the demonstrations phase going. A Phase 2 award is anticipated in August 2016.

  5. Do you feel the wastewater community is supportive of new technology start-ups such as yours?
    Generally yes. The last few months we’ve talked with a large number of wastewater professionals, and we heard a desire for tools that help them perform their jobs better. Our tech has been received warmly.

    I am not sure if the wastewater community fully understands the challenges associated with crossing the chasm and bringing an innovation to the mainstream.

  6. Where do you think your technology is headed – what will it look like 10 years from now?
    Molecular diagnostics for the wastewater industry will be capable of real time results; with remote capability and networked with other data streams providing a better picture to operators for better process control.


Learn more about Neptune Diagnostics at


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Alec Mackie

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