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This is the sixth of 10 profiles provided by the North Carolina Technology Association highlighting its newest Beacon Award category, Ten Startups to Watch. The companies will be recognized during the organization's November 6th NC Technology Awards Gala.

By Ann Revell-Pechar

For such an early company, bioMASON is having an amazing run. 
This two-year-old biotechnology startup uses natural microorganisms to manufacture bricks. It’s such a novel idea that even Richard Branson got excited when bioMASON CEO Ginger Dosier presented at and won his Postcode Lottery Green Challenge last year, taking home about $670,000.

Building on its strong roots in North Carolina, this creative company wants to revolutionize the building and construction industry. The idea to “grow bricks” came from studying coral—a cement-like material created by nature in sea temperatures with low energy and material inputs. The initial process has since been refined and optimized for increased performance and reduced production costs. 

“We are working on a new technology with interesting challenges, as we seek to grow materials,” says Dosier, who operates the business with her husband, Michael. “We are fortunate to be pioneers. We all learn something new each day as we rapidly move forward.” 

Impacting Society

bioMASON, at its core, appears to seek high impact, both in financial growth and social and environmental impact. The statistics that back up the environmental impact bioMASON could have are astounding. According to its website, 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions are linked to the construction industry, primarily owing to exhaustive material production and disposal processes. 

Global cement production in 2008 totaled 2.8 billion tons, with equivalent quantities of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Both concrete and clay manufacturing include energy intensive processes for raw material extraction, transportation and fuel sources for heating kilns. bioMASON promises more efficient and cost effective solutions.

Dosier attributes bioMASON's success to constant iteration. Borrowing lessons from other industries, whether that’s the brewing industry or agricultural hydroponics, has saved time and helped to create a nimble company. 

Growing Culture

bioMASON is a unique organization of individuals from multiple disciplines. The diverse team collaborates in open offices, open labs and even open manufacturing at its offices on Centennial Campus at NC State University. Routine team events—usually including some type of foodie culture—encourage employees to learn more about each other. 

From the start, bioMASON knew that success would come from a strong team, but also from engaged investors and a large community of academic institutions. “We are fortunate to be interwoven in these three domains,” Dosier says.

To Build a Village

In addition to early funding from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and a location at First Flight Venture Center in Research Triangle Park, bioMASON has received investment from Acorn Innovestments and its network. It has also received extensive assistance from partners like the NSF, Cherokee McDonough Challenge, DOEN Foundation and, of course, the Post Code Lottery. 

The leadership team understands that growing a company that grows bricks takes a strong foundation. The founding team is grateful for those upon whose shoulders they are building this success, including associates, customers and future customers, NC State University, UNC, and advisors from near and far. And, of course, families and friends. 
“We want NC to know that we chose to establish roots in the state, and look forward to growing into a large, job-generating entity,” says Dosier. “Our business success is tied to the established success of the community and we look forward to more outreach and engagement opportunities.” 

Assuming the trajectory remains the same, bioMASON will look quite different a year from now. Expect new project announcements, and the creation of more jobs in North Carolina.