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Biotech firm expands to London, Ont. to produce material for PPE

A file image of an N95 mask. File Photo / Getty Images

A biotechnology research and development firm, which repurposes agricultural byproducts that would otherwise be disposed of, is expanding to London, Ont.

BIOSA Technologies says it recognized a gap in the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain early on in the pandemic and “immediately went to work on researching and developing environmentally friendly solutions.”

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With support of more than $615,000 from the province, BIOSA says it’s investing over $1.2 million into non-woven filtration material to be used for N95 and N99 masks as well as other PPE.

BIOSA is setting up shop in a roughly 4,000-square-foot facility in south London that includes a biochemical laboratory and “the first-of-its-size industrial electrospinning machine in Canada,” according to a release.

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“We are delighted to welcome innovative companies like BIOSA that are investing in ecofriendly solutions to pressing industry, health and environmental problems,” president and CEO of the London Economic Development Corporation Kapil Lakhotia told Global News.

“Recent wins such as BIOSA and ANVO Pharma are building London’s life sciences industry that’s poised for significant growth.”

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COO Nigel Miller tells Global News the company is looking to start production in October.

“We make material that uses agricultural waste products that can be from, you know, some crops or it can be from dairy — even grapes we’re looking at — we use that in order to give the textile a bit of a what we call superpower. It’s antimicrobial. It’s filtration material that is reusable and part of (it) is compostable,” he explained.

“For example, on dairy, we take some of the waste products, actually a waste product that is toxic to the environment. We harvest from that what would be, I don’t want to get too technical, but we harvest some enzymes and proteins that give us the antimicrobial capabilities. And as an outcome of this, the waste is no longer toxic.”

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CEO and founder of BIOSA Nicholas Ledra said in a statement that London is “poised to be a leader in pandemic prevention.”

“It has such a strong academic and research community, and great commercial resources…. It’s also a great spot for collaboration. We use a lot of biomass and landfill-bound agricultural waste in developing our products since they are designed to be eco-friendly and compostable, and by being in London, we’re close to local agricultural groups.”

Miller says BIOSA is in conversation with some existing manufacturers of PPE as well as with companies “coming up with novel ideas” on how to make reusable and longer-lasting masks and respirators that are also more comfortable.

“We’re working with industrial partners and we’re also in contact with academic institutions, Fanshawe specifically, for expertise. And of course, we’re looking at better ways to utilize waste. So (we’re) in conversation with a lot of potential biomass suppliers in the area.”

Miller says he anticipates “a lot of hiring” in the coming months, though details are limited at this time.

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