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Unlocking the Potential of Nature’s Dendrimer: From Serendipitous Discovery to Fundamental Science to Commercialization

Dutcher Nature offers amazing examples of nanostructured molecules and materials. An excellent example of this is phytoglycogen, a highly branched polymer of glucose that is produced in the form of dense, monodisperse nanoparticles by some varieties of plants such as sweet corn. The particles are chemically simple, but it is their dendrimeric or tree-like physical structure that produces interesting and unusual properties such as extraordinary water retention, and low viscosity and exceptional stability in water. These properties point to a wide variety of potential applications from cosmetics to drug delivery, yet these applications need to be enabled by a deeper understanding of the unique structure of the particles and their interaction with water. I will describe our journey from the initial serendipitous discovery of the particles to our detailed analysis of their structure and hydration using a wide range of techniques to the commercialization of this natural, sustainable nanotechnology in our Guelph-based spinoff company Mirexus.