Elliot Roth (B.S.’15) is one of this year’s VCU Alumni 10 Under 10 recipients. The awards program honors alumni who earned their first VCU degree within the past 10 years and have enjoyed remarkable professional success, made important contributions to their community and loyally supported the university.
By VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations
In 2016, Elliot Roth founded Spira Inc., a Los Angeles-based food technology company that creates ingredients for food companies from spirulina microalgae.
Shortly after graduating from VCU in 2015, Roth discovered spirulina while reading a 1988 NASA study that claimed the microalgae was so nutritious it could sustain astronauts for long periods. Frustrated by the high cost of quality food, Roth purchased equipment to grow spirulina and began to eat it. The microalgae is 60% protein by weight and contains many crucial micronutrients, including B vitamins, iron and manganese.
The company went through several iterations, from focusing on a bottled beverage to manufacturing equipment for consumers to grow spirulina. Now Spira focuses on creating food ingredients that replace petroleum-based food colorings. Roth’s proprietary spirulina culture is processed into a powder. The powder is naturally blue and can effectively replace artificial blue dye No.1 in food products.
Spira has received numerous awards from Halcyon Incubator, RebelBio, Lighthouse Labs, World Food Programme, BeGreen, CommBeBiz and the National Science Foundation. He has been a Seasteading Institute ambassador, Kairos fellow and served on the Virginia Governor’s Council for Youth Entrepreneurship. He has also presented at SXSW, SynBioBeta and Thought for Food.
Before founding Spira, Roth graduated from VCU with a degree in biomedical engineering and a certificate from the da Vinci Center in product innovation. He trained at the Stanford d.school as a University Innovation fellow. In 2014, he co-founded Indie Lab RVA, a space for aspiring scientists to experiment and create, procuring $500,000 in lab equipment. The same year, Roth founded TEDxVCU and placed first and third in VCU’s venture competition. The following year, he placed second and third in the venture contest.