After seeing the shocking accumulation of plastic waste at the Vancouver South Waste Transfer Station at the age of 17, Miranda and Jeanny decided to take action against the problem through science. With the mentorship of Professor Lindsay Eltis and his graduate students, Adam Crowe and James Round, at the University of British Columbia, the duo was able to conduct a self-designed research project titled “Phthalate-degrading bacteria from the Fraser River Estuary” to explore potential solutions for plastic chemical break down using natural bacteria. Their work showed that two strains of soil bacteria previously unassociated with phthalate biodegradation were able to exemplify faster degradation rates than strains mentioned in the academic literature. Their finding further confirmed the observation that microbes can use plastic chemicals as their only energy source and that the solution for plastic pollution may already lie within biology. In 2013, Miranda and Jeanny were invited to speak at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California to share their research story and were subsequently named Canada’s Future Leaders Under 25 in sustainability by Maclean’s.
In 2015, Miranda and Jeanny joined forces again and founded BioCellection Inc. in efforts to innovate and commercialize new conversion technologies for plastic polymers using chemical and biochemical systems. They met Bill Liao and graduated from his RebelBio accelerator in Cork, Ireland in August 2015. After becoming the first undergraduate team to win the Perlman Grand Prize at the 2016 Wharton Business Plan Competition, the co-founder team raised over $750,000, made a few pivots, and moved the BioCellection headquarters to the San Jose BioCube incubator in San Jose, California to begin the next chapter of their journey to break down plastics.