SASKATOON -- University of Saskatchewan researchers and three local companies are helping to address a provincial shortage of hand sanitizer using a campus bioprocessing facility to temporarily produce sanitizer and key ingredients, while a group of collaborating businesses gear up for larger-scale production.

The university’s Bioprocessing Pilot Plant was producing hand sanitizer - up to 400 bottles a day - until a week ago when local firm Bioriginal Food & Science Corp. secured a license to set up its own manufacturing facility to produce the hand sanitizer in larger quantities, according to a news release. Bioriginal is selling the sanitizer to the Saskatchewan Health Authority at a discounted price to help protect health care workers from COVID-19.

The three sanitizer products include a sanitizing gel for hands, a surface sanitizer that replaces rubbing alcohol for medical uses and a workplace sanitizer for equipment.

U of S researcher Martin Reaney, who is also CEO of spin-off Prairie Tide Diversified, said his lab and Prairie Tide have been working with the Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre on the verification analysis.

“Over the past two weeks, we have moved heaven and earth to make this product happen in a way that meets all regulations in Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Health Canada and other federal agencies have been very helpful in expediting this,” Reaney said.

A key ingredient, ethanol, is being produced by Lanigan firm Pound-Maker Agventures Ltd., which runs an integrated feedlot and fuel ethanol facility.

“The launch of this sanitizer business in Saskatchewan has created a couple of jobs for USask grads as analytical technicians and about 15 bottling jobs,” Reaney said in the release.

“Due to low fuel prices and reduced demand, ethanol plants are struggling to maintain production and in some cases have closed. This venture provides the Lanigan ethanol plant with the ability to operate at capacity, providing local employment and a value-added market for grain.”