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In the late 1970s, Mark Emalfarb used $5,000 to start a company that revolutionized the world of blue jeans by introducing the process of stonewashing with pumice stones to other companies in the United States. Now Emalfarb, 51, and Dyadic International Inc. in Jupiter, Florida, are moving from jeans to genes. Using enzymes that are derived from a Russian fungus, they're developing a system for gene discovery and manufacturing that will result in new, affordable medicines.
Dyadic has found other uses for the enzymes, too. Emalfarb originally sought their development when the blue-jean industry shifted from pumice to chemicals. He realized the enzymatic action softening the cotton in his jeans might also break down other plant materials. The $15.8 million company now creates enzymes for pulp and paper mills to make the process cleaner and more efficient, and it's currently testing its enzymes on ethanol production from corn byproducts. Says Emalfarb, "We can make 810 million gallons of ethanol from last year's byproduct alone."