Marilyn Bruno: Playing Responsible Roles Judiciously
The survival of mankind depends on three things: clean water, food, and a livable environment. These fundamental needs of every living entity must be sustainably met for all time to come. Food and water contaminated with bacteria and fungi have the potential to destroy human health and end life on Earth. Taking this threat straight on, Aequor was founded. Aequor is a biotech company that developed new chemicals that kill a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi — including the antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) “Superbugs” for which there is no other cure. Aequor’s lead chemical was also validated as the only non-toxic remedy to remove the bacteria and fungi’s protective “biofilm” shield and inhibit biofilm formation. Biofilm is the root cause of contamination, corrosion, infection, and disease on land and the marine fouling (barnacles, mussels, algae) on surfaces in contact with fresh and salt water.
The leading light of Aequor is Marilyn Bruno, the CEO of the company. After three decades in male-dominated careers before joining Aequor, she has been an inspiration to many women to enter into any career of their choice. But Aequor has been a real challenge. Marilyn finds appalling that statistically only 2.7% of women-led businesses get investment funding.
Highly Educated and Diverse Experiences
Marilyn Bruno has had several totally disparate careers: international academic administration, finance, trade, law and diplomacy. First, Marilyn was a Spanish Literature major at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts during the revolutionary ’60s, and headed to Madrid to do her Masters’ degree with the NYU in Spain academic program. After earning her M.A., NYU hired her as an administrator of the program. She worked for NYU for the next 10 years, growing the program to 300 students and 80 faculty members, earning her PhD and teaching as Adjunct Professor of Medieval to 17th Century literature. She left Spain in the early ’80s with her infant daughter and became a stock and commodity broker on Wall Street, VP at a bank, and ultimately started a computerized trading system in collaboration with the General Electric Information Services Company — the only company with commercial satellite access at the time.
Award Winning Entrepreneur
Marilyn’s proprietary trading system, called Tradetech, was pre-Internet, pre-eBay, pre-Amazon and pre-Wikipedia but it had email, research and auction features that supported over 70 complex international trade transactions, as she pioneered the use of barter and countertrade to finance U.S. exports to cash-strapped countries in Latin America and Europe. When Marilyn travelled with her Compaq computer (the first portable, 20 lb., machine), Customs officials would ask her why she was traveling with her sewing machine.
Ten years later, she received many awards, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, featured in Business Week, appointed to the U.S. President’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on National Security, etc.
After an unfriendly takeover of Tradetech by GE, Marilyn went to New York Law School, graduated in 2.5 years, passed the Bar exams of NY, NJ, FL and was waived into the DC Bar. Marilyn is licensed to argue before the Supreme Court. She was a Clerk at the Court of International Trade when she was accepted into the U.S. Foreign Service. She served 16 years in the Diplomatic Corps as an Economic Officer both at the State Department in Washington, D.C. and at U.S. Embassies overseas, handling the food security, pandemic threat, and environmental portfolios among others. Marilyn resigned her Foreign Service post to work full time as CEO of Aequor — a company founded by her daughter, Cynthia Burzell, now a Ph.D. Marine and Medical Microbiologist and the scientist who made the breakthrough discovery of novel chemicals in the ocean that kill the Superbugs.
Contributing to the UN Health Goals
Cynthia discovered a new genus and several new species of marine microbes (she named one after Marilyn) and extracted the remarkable new chemicals. Aequor has now patented over 70 non-toxic, “green,” eco-friendly, and sustainable chemicals — dispersants, cleaning, antibiofilm, antifouling, antimicrobial agents — and several proprietary “green” products containing them. Cynthia offers microbial and biofilm testing services to third parties to determine whether the antimicrobials in their products, devices, coatings, etc. are able to kill the AMR Superbugs.
Aequor is the only company dedicated to the United Nations (UN) “One Health” goals to control pandemic threats from their 3 sources of transmission: animals, humans and the environment (water, food, air, surfaces, etc.). Aequor’s green chemicals can replace the toxic biocides that accumulate and persist in the environment, triggering further antimicrobial resistance and spawning stronger Superbugs.
And Aequor is helping to save the Space program. The bacteria and fungi hitchhiking up to the International Space Station were contaminating the water reuse/recycling system used for life support. In the micro and zero-gravity environments and exposed to radiation, the bacteria and fungi form thicker biofilm and quickly become resistant to silver and other antimicrobials. After a 3-year pilot project with NASA, one single treatment of Aequor’s chemicals removed the biofilm from the water system in minutes and remained active for 15 months without replenishment. NASA became Aequor’s first customer.
Creating Sustainable Sources of Food
Aequor’s treatments were tested in algae cultivation systems and yeast fermentation systems converting plant residues into new products. Aequor’s treatments boosted the productivity of algae and plant biomass by up to 40% in half the time. This boosts the profitability of new sources of biobased, sustainable sources of food — like the meatless burger, yoghurt and ice cream. These treatments also boost the profitability of biofuels to replace fossil fuels and cut CO2 emissions.
Allowing Specialists to Specialize
Marilyn considers that it is important for business leaders to have vision. She advises to look 10 years into the future, identify needs and come back to the present to prepare for them. Marilyn lets the specialists specialize.
Cynthia liaises with a Scientific Advisory Board and Marilyn liaises with a Business Advisory Board. This virtual, capital-efficient model is well-suited for a company like Aequor, where its proprietary chemicals can be used in multiple verticals. Aequor seeks licensees to run with the spinoffs: water treatments, surface cleaners, algae/yeast boosters, new drug candidates. Of course, Aequor is always looking for investors. In the upcoming years, Marilyn sees Aequor as a $ billion company, Cynthia receiving a Nobel Prize, and she writing her book.