Tom Graham, Communications, Kemptville Campus
When biotech company Proteins Easy was searching eastern Ontario for greenhouse space for their burgeoning operation, Kemptville Campus came up in their search.
“We are really pleased to have discovered the greenhouses at Kemptville Campus,” says company founder and president Illimar Altosaar. “It’s a perfect match for us, for the community; we deal with plants and we’re in the farming community…it’s a match made in heaven.”
Proteins Easy is a genetics company developing novel proteins. From the lab to the greenhouse to the farmer’s field, the company looks for ways to enhance and improve value-added proteins using plant-based solutions.
“We are delighted that Proteins Easy has chosen Kemptville Campus as a location to expand their research and development enterprise,” said Karen Cooper, Campus Board Chair. “Their unique business aligns well with our goals of innovation, sustainability and education.”
Dr. Altosaar is a Professor of Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Ottawa. He and his team of researchers and engineers have outgrown their facilities in Ottawa. The space in one of the Campus Greenhouses will allow them to enlarge their operations and give them room to expand.
“I grew up on the campus of Macdonald College,” explains Dr. Altosaar. “So, since my teenage years agriculture and Ag schools have been in my blood. After training in biochemistry, I became a protein biochemist. I was delighted when the medical school at University of Ottawa decided to teach food and nutrition to medical students.”
Dr. Altosaar has been teaching biotechnology at the University of Ottawa since 1978. “It has been my ethos, ‘Make food thy medicine, and make medicine thy food'” he explains. ” My raison d’être.”
Since that time, his lab has hosted, nurtured, and launched about a dozen biotech startup companies throughout eastern Ontario, contributing significantly to the economic development of the region.
Around 2002, he realized that his ideas could produce pharmaceutical proteins, such as antigens, antibodies and vaccines, and that he could produce them very inexpensively inside edible foods such as corn or an oat kernel. In 2007, he started Proteins Easy, incorporating his patent portfolio which the university had returned to him, and began to develop the ideas himself.
“One of our biggest projects right now is developing a fabric that’s weather resistant yet biodegradable,” he explained. “60% of landfills right now are filled with non-biodegradable fabrics such as nylon, spandex and polyester. Young people today are looking for products that have a positive environmental impact – they are starting to ask themselves, and the manufacturers, is this textile compostable?”
“They’re looking for things like synthetic silk. We are working with engineers who are making a fabric that’s lighter, stronger and more resilient than Kevlar, and we’re developing this for a manufacturer in the UK right now.”
Illimar and his team will be moving into their new space later this spring. Learn more about the company at https://www.proteinseasy.com/.