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New Brunswick company fights food invaders, naturally

At a glance
The team

Tanzina Huq, supervised by Dr. Yonghao Ni, Department of Chemical Engineering at University of New Brunswick, with Chinova Bioworks

The challenge

Food spoilage costs $30 million to the Canadian economy every year

The solution

Develop a preservative using extracted chitosan, a plant-based compound that can fight the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold

The outcome

A “clean label” customizable preservative, derived from mushrooms

What's next

Commercialize the preservative, expand its application into the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries

A New Brunswick biotech start-up is working to keep your food fresh using a revolutionary compound made from an ingredient you might find in your fridge. Chinova Bioworks is developing a preservative that capitalizes on the antimicrobial properties of a compound found in mushrooms. The compound, chitosan, is a natural, vegan preservative that consumers and companies can both feel good about.

“Consumers and companies alike are looking for safe and natural ways to keep their products fresher for longer,” says Natasha, CEO of Chinova Bioworks. “But labels full of unpronounceable, artificial ingredients can turn consumers off. It was important to me to create an alternative to the chemical preservatives normally found in food and beverage products.”

While conceptualizing the product, Natasha was searching for someone to take it to the next level — and she knew that Mitacs was available to help fledgling companies like hers.

She found her champion in Tanzina Huq, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Brunswick with a background in food safety and experience with chitosan. Chinova and Tanzina partnered with the University of New Brunswick through a Mitacs internship.

“The research in this project is very different from the other techniques I’ve used in the past,” says Tanzina. “Learning about the business side of commercializing a food product has been an eye-opening experience.”

Tanzina is developing a highly customizable product, giving Chinova Bioworks a competitive advantage that will help them to expand beyond food into other markets such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

For Natasha and Chinova Bioworks, the partnership couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.

“Working with Tanzina and Mitacs helped us get access to the lab facilities we need to commercialize our product, and the collaboration has been extremely helpful in guiding us through the research process.” Natasha continues, “Having a physical product to show to potential buyers makes all the difference when we’re pitching them. Without Mitacs’ support, the company wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground.”

Chinova hopes to have their chitosan product on the market by the end of 2018, having already received inquiries from beverage companies in Japan and the U.S.

In the meantime, Tanzina will continue her work as the company’s Chief Technology Officer, having proven herself an invaluable member of Chinova Bioworks’ team. 


Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of New Brunswick for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story.

Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from  Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Saskatchewan, and Research Manitoba.