Programmable Life Expanding Workforce, Moving to Grand Island from UB Technology Incubator

Release Date: April 17, 2002 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Programmable Life, Inc., is graduating from the University at Buffalo Technology Incubator and moving to a 4,000-square-foot facility on Grand Island that includes laboratory, office and pilot manufacturing space.

The company, founded by Robert Downie, Ph.D., develops and manufactures chemical compounds used to produce degradable plastics.

The company's flagship product, Ecostar', is a chemical compound that when added to resin can be used to produce degradable or recyclable items such as plastic bags, coated papers and plastic cups or utensils. Ecostar' is sold to resin manufacturers and also currently is licensed to a Japanese company.

"Helping companies like Programmable Life 'graduate' from the Incubator program and grow their business in Western New York is vitally important," said Robert J. Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., UB vice provost and head of the university's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach.

"The more of these success stories we have in the area means more jobs are created, bolstering the economic wealth of the region," added Genco, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Oral Biology, where he is chair, in the UB School of Dental Medicine and the Department of Microbiology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Programmable Life entered the UB Technology Incubator in 1999 to build on research done by ECOssais LLC, an earlier venture started by Downie. Research advancements translated into a method of producing low-cost chemical additives that facilitate the degradation of polyethylene, the most widely used plastic.

Due to the cost of conventional degradable methods, degradable plastics account for less than 1 percent of production. Programmable Life is poised to grow the degradable market due largely to its low-cost production methods. Total revenues for Programmable Life last year were $2 million.

The past six months have been very busy for the company. In December 2001, it became the majority shareholder of Greenchip Investments, PLC. Greenchip has established channels in Europe, and markets North American-developed technology to European companies. Downie will continue to serve as chief executive officer of Programmable Life.

"Our merger with Greenchip opens new marketing channels for Programmable Life in Europe and increases our working capital," said Downie.

He said it was the merger that fueled his decision to move to a larger facility. "The space in Grand Island has pilot manufacturing facilities, enabling us to begin product production and to add jobs." Programmable Life, which currently has five employees in Western New York and nine worldwide, plans to increase employment in Western New York to 25 within the coming year.

The UB Technology Incubator, part of the university's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach, assists technology-intensive companies grow into thriving businesses. Located at 1576 Sweet Home Road in Amherst, the incubator has assisted more than 60 companies, boasting a 75 percent survival rate. It currently is home to 17 companies, many of which are in the life-sciences field.

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John Della Contrada
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