Mirexus and Professor Hendrick de Haan at Ontario Tech University are modelling a unique nanoparticle derived from sweet corn for use in cosmetics and drug delivery

When Mirexus Biotechnologies needed a deeper understanding of their core technology, they turned to Professor Hendrick de Haan and his team at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa. Professor de Haan is a researcher in computational biophysics. Using SOSCIP’s Accelerated-GPU platform, his team built Mirexus a simulation of a very special nanoparticle, right down to the atomistic level. 

 

Mirexus Biotechnologies is developing a range of products around a unique particle that grows naturally in sweet corn: the Phytoglycogen nanoparticle. Phytoglycogen is highly bio-compatible, and can be used in hand- and face-creams to increase absorption by the skin, as well as in drug-delivery, where it would bind to other molecules to secrete them into the human body.

The task undertaken by Professor de Haan and his team was to figure out the profile of this nanoparticle at the atomistic level. This idea is that with a vision of its shape, Mirexus can infer and simulate how Phytoglycogen will react to a given molecule, significantly clarifying future research into its potential as a drug-delivery or supplement-delivery tool with an array of commercial uses.

In order to simulate a nanoparticle that has not already been modelled, Professor de Haan and his team had to grow the particle from a “seed” of glucose (sugar). By starting with a single strand of glucose, and attaching more and more strands of glucose to the seed, they observed an interesting branching phenomenon that eventually determined the overall structure of the nanoscopic starch ball.

Prof. de Haan

This process, of joining thousands of strands of glucose together, starting with a single strand, “needed specialized resources,” says Professor de Haan. Luckily, SOSCIP’s advanced research computing platforms were perfectly suited to this need. “The GPU cluster turned out to be an amazing machine to make progress” on the simulation, allowing the project to “build highly detailed simulations that were… tens of millions of particles” and “started to approach the scale of the actual structures in reality.”

And I think one thing to emphasize is the uniqueness of SOSCIP in this sphere because there are grant programs that are aimed at collaboration with industry, and then there’s a lot of computer resources, different types of clusters that an academic in Canada can get access to quite easily, but the tying together of these things at SOSCIP is a unique thing, and I hope that’s recognized. 

Mirexus Biotechnologies stand to benefit in two ways from this collaboration. First, they now have an extremely good idea of what their Phytoglycogen nanoparticle looks like at the atomistic level, providing valuable information to Mirexus’ researchers about how the nanoparticle will react with other particles and molecules. Second, and perhaps more importantly, this simulated nanoparticle can be used in future simulations.

“Ultimately the benefit of this to Mirexus,” says Professor de Haan, “is that we can continue to other simulations where we can introduce other sorts of compounds of interest.” Because simulating the reaction of Phytoglycogen with other compounds is less costly and potentially faster than in a laboratory setting, Professor de Haan’s atomistic-level model of the nanoparticle can be used and re-used during the entire lifecycle of Mirexus’ Phytoglycogen development, accelerating both R&D and commercialization.