Ray Sambrotto, a microbiologist and associate professor at Columbia University's Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory, spent three decades studying microbial life in oceans and coastal waters, generating research that he hoped someday would be applied to help solve environmental problems.
But unlike in biomedical research, findings in environmental science are rarely applied commercially. So several years ago, Sambrotto thought, Why not try to do it myself?
Last year he co-founded Allied Microbiota with Frana James, drawing on five years of exploratory research to identify microbes capable of remediating contaminated soil.
"I decided I would like to have an impact outside academia," said Sambrotto, the son of a steel worker. He grew up in Western New York, where hazardous waste sites, such as Love Canal, are a vestige of its industrial past. "I'm proud of the publishing I've done, but I would really like to address the legacy of environmental pollutants."