Nano-material extracted from sweet corn is non-toxic and editable. Photo: Handout
Nano-material extracted from sweet corn is non-toxic and editable. Photo: Handout

A Canadian-based biotech startup company is thriving after using its “countrified” technology to extract a non-toxic, edible nano-material from feedstock out of “low-tech” sweet corn.

Mirexus, based in the idyllic city of Guelph in the Greater Toronto Area, has been feeding its brand-new phytoglycogen manufacturing plant with truckloads of locally grown corn each day since the facility’s inauguration in May.

For years, scientists have been trying to crack the problem of how to mass-produce safe, cost-effective nano-materials. It turns out that the solution was hiding in plain sight – in Canada’s sprawling cornfields.

Featuring modular extruders and boilers, Mirexus’ water-based physical extraction is the proprietary technique of turning corn kernels into the novel, plant-derived glycogen, a bio-polymer of glucose with stable bioactive compounds.

This kind of material is uniform-sized nano-particles, which are also edible, water-soluble and biodegradable purified carbohydrate.

Mirexus’ new research and manufacturing facility in Guelph, near Toronto. Photo: Handout

Researchers at the University of Guelph first discovered the material and found ways to extract it from five varieties of locally cultivated sweet corn.

The product, in the form of white powder, has been dermatologically tested as non-irritating and non-allergenic and has been approved by authorities in Canada and the European Union as a food ingredient, while US and major markets across Asia are also set to issue their approvals, according to company CEO Dr Phil Whiting.

He revealed that Mirexus’ phytoglycogen nano-particle is not classified as a nano-material by regulatory and certification bodies because it is water soluble and not biopersistant – the material can be quickly and easily degraded to simple sugars in the environment and in the body.

The company’s Guelph plant is set to beef up annual output to 16 tons.

The corn-derived nano-material will then work its magic when added to personal care products, which never cause cutaneous irritation or skin sensitization, and to medicines as a hypoallergenic element.

Skin care products containing such “phytoglycogen by nature” will soon emerge on the market, as several brands have started their trial productions of nano-cosmetics using the ingredient from Mirexus.

Mirexus has also launched its own personal care brand, Veriphy, offering moisturizers and anti-aging creams that diminish coarse wrinkles, fine lines and discoloration.

Changes to skin texture and wrinkles after using a skin cream product containing corn-extracted nano-material for six weeks. Photo: Handout

As for the development of nano-medicines, monodisperse carbohydrate nano-particles are modified as active ingredients for targeted drug delivery, imaging or diagnostics, improving stability, solubility and bioavailability of existing drugs.

The structure and non-toxicity of such nano-material makes it possible to overcome the biological barriers that limit the effectiveness of many therapies today.

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