The J. Craig Venter Institute, a La Jolla-based not-for-profit genomic research organization, announced that one of its scientists has been awarded a $5 million grant to continue her research into new wastewater treatment technologies.

The Encino-based Roddenberry Foundation, which funds science and technology endeavors that benefit the environment, education and humanitarian advances, awarded the grant to JCVI researcher Orianna Bretschger. It will support the development of a sanitation system that uses microbial fuel cells to clean wastewater and improve sanitation and water accessibility in developing world applications.

“Dr. Bretschger’s MFC sustainable wastewater treatment project is exactly the type of innovative, field-changing research that fits our mission,” said Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry, president of the foundation. “Her use of microbes to convert human waste into clean water and electricity is another step toward making disease a thing of the past.”

The microbial fuel cells convert organic matter in sewage and wastewater into fuel, and in the process also break down the remaining pathogens and sludge. Bretschger’s lab is currently able to treat about 100 gallons of municipal wastewater and sewage sludge per day — enough to support a small household.

— SDBJ Staff Report