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Startup Success: Where coral and medical combine to fuel innovation

Born in Jamaica, Michael Gerdes’ childhood was influenced by the ocean. Then his family moved to Akron, Ohio. Despite being landlocked, Gerdes’ love of the ocean continued, fueled by Jacques Cousteau on television.

When he was in high school, Gerdes was discouraged from pursuing such an impractical career; he was told it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

Meanwhile, Justin Credabel Grabel was born and raised in New London, where his interest in science and marine life was encouraged.

Flash forward to when the two met at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America. By then, Gerdes had a career in cancer and biomedical research, and Credabel had pet store experience and was growing coral as a science teacher.

The two found that their common passion for coral and complimentary experiences could be the foundation for an exciting business venture.

Credabel Coral Gallery makes its home in New London, where there is a unique mix of scientists and artists. The gallery features both art and a coral farm, where the partners cultivate a variety of corals for the pet store and aquarium markets.

“People don’t realize that coral is not a plant; it’s more like a jelly fish with a spine,” said Grabel.

“Coral requires care and feeding, much like fish,” said Gerdes. “We’ve perfected how to properly care for and nurture coral through feeding and supplements.”

In addition to propagating coral, Credabel Coral is launching a product line of chemical supplements to enhance coral growth and pigmentation.

Like an octopus, Credabel’s coral farm has tentacles. There is the art gallery, the product line, educational workshops and biomedical research.

If growing coral for aquariums isn’t cutting edge enough, Credabel Coral is researching and experimenting with using coral to regenerate bone.

With the global need to protect coral reefs in our oceans, the pair of entrepreneurs possess what they call “pessimistic optimism.” Their work will do something to help, either in preserving coral reefs or medicine; now or in the future.

Emma Palzere-Rae is the Ignite Program Manager for Thames River Innovation Place. For information, visit



Who: Michael Gerdes and Justin Credabel Grabel, Founders

Founded: January 2017

Location: Bank Street, New London

Employees: 2 full-time, adding part-time staff in 2019; 3 volunteers


Featured Resource: Marine Aquarium Conference of North America —




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