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Biomaterials research program launches in Peterborough


Peterborough, ON – A new groundbreaking laboratory and research program focused on the utilization of plant oils (lipids) to create new biomaterials has been created at Trent University. Called the Trent Biomaterials Research Program, it will be led by Dr Suresh Narine, a pioneer in this emerging field.

“Our research offers an alternative solution – to employ agriculture (fats and oils) to create renewable feed stocks that then can be converted using science to create materials more environmentally benign and more in sync with the natural carbon cycle to abate and combat climate change,” said Dr Narine, who was recruited to Trent from the University of Alberta.

To date, $2.5-million has been raised to bring Dr Narine and his team of researchers to Trent and to set up the new lab, which, according to Dr Narine, will be “the best built lab in the world for lipid and biomaterials research.” Founding partners and funders include:
– Elevance Renewable Sciences, Bolingbrook, Illinois – $1,000,000
– Ontario Soybean Growers – $500,000
– Anonymous philanthropist to establish the Biomaterials Innovation Fund – $500,000
– Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster and the Community Adjustment Fund – $500,000
In addition, support has also been provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for equipment.

“The commercialization potential of Trent’s Biomaterials Research Program is impressive and matched only by its many ecological benefits including reclaiming carbons, adding value to agricultural commodities, creating sustainable products and abating climate change,” said Dr Steven E Franklin, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University.

Biomaterials represent a multidisciplinary approach to the development of new and functional, environmentally-responsible materials from renewable, sustainable agricultural feedstock, using: synthetic organic chemistry; microbial and enzymatic modification; materials chemistry and physics; and polymers physics. The resulting products include healthy, functional foods and food matrices; functional, toxin-free polymers; functional waxes and greases; lubricants with specialized functionalities; cosmetics; and fuels.

Within the Biomaterials Research Program at Trent, Dr Narine and his team will study the synthesis, structure, and functionality of biomaterials from lipid feedstock. Phase 1 of 2 phases is complete, with Phase 2 slated for completed in September 2010. When completed, the program will be among the top 1% of laboratories in the world focussed on lipid bioproducts and their structure-function relationships.

Dr Narine, who is originally from Guyana, completed both his BSc and MSc at Trent. In Alberta, he was one of four Alberta value-added corporation chairs with the University of Alberta, where he built the Alberta lipid utilization research program, focused on the utilization of fats and oils for the production of industrial materials, high value edible applications, and cosmetic ingredients. As an NSERC industrial chair in lipid utilization, Dr Narine also built the world’s leading agri-food materials science lab and plant facility and, among other feats, developed the technology to convert canola oil and other vegetable oils to biodegradable plastics. He is also director of Guyana’s Institute of Applied Science and Technology and author of Guyana’s Agro-Energy strategy.