The sweet corn season is drawing to an end for consumers, but not for Mirexus Biotechnologies Ltd., the latest addition to Guelph’s growing presence in the hi-tech sector.
Ontario sweet corn is the feedstock for a unique trademarked molecule called PhytoSpherix, discovered by researchers in a University of Guelph physics lab more than a decade ago. PhytoSpherix has turned out to be a nanotechnology wunderkind and key to applications ranging from cosmetics to health care.
It’s caught the imagination of product developers and investors worldwide. And now, PhytoSpherix will be commercially manufactured in Guelph’s Hanlon Creek Business Park, at Mirexus’ new $7.2-million, 12,000-square-foot research, development and manufacturing facility. Company, government and research officials gathered Friday afternoon for the completed facility’s ribbon cutting.
“This is an exciting, homegrown Guelph story, with its roots at the University of Guelph,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie. “Mirexus is part of the circular food economy, the kind of clean and green tech Guelph wants to attract and support.”
Malcolm Campbell, vice-president of research for the university, said Mirexus “represents amazing cross-pollination, across something as diverse as the innovation ecosystem.” He noted how PhytoSpherix’s many diverse applications gives it the potential to improve life – the university’s motto – in areas such as human health, as well as through local job creation.
Mirexus currently employs 27 people. Its growth potential is huge, given the new uses the company’s chemists, physicists and marketing teams keeps finding for it.
Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, chair of the federal innovation and technology caucus and a vice-chair of the digital caucus, said Mirexus takes value-added to a new level.
“It’s a convergence of science, business and government support,” he said, adding that the agricultural component of the technology and support from the province as well, through the Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, completes the connectivity that helped nurture and grow PhytoSpherix into a business.
Longfield said Ottawa is keen on finding out how university campuses can work together to capitalize on innovative findings such as PhytoSpherix.
Plans call for the new facility to be able to manufacture 16 tonnes of PhytoSpherix annually – a huge amount, given nanotechnology materials are typically measured in milligrams.
Already, Mirexus has developed a new division called Veriphy to deal specifically with PhytoSpherix’s cosmetic applications. Phil Whiting, CEO of Mirexus, announced at the ribbon cutting Veriphy will be sponsoring a scholarship at the University of Guelph.
He further noted how Mirexus values its relationship with its community.
“Our current location provides us with access to a group of top post-secondary institutions for research needs as well as the opportunity for future expansion of our facility,” he said. “Our employees also enjoy living here, which makes Guelph the perfect place for our operation.”