Source: Augusta Chronicle

Biotechnology company Manus Bio said Monday it has increased production capacity at its east Augusta sweetener plant, adding more than 20 full-time employees to the payroll.

The Massachusetts-based company, which acquired the former NutraSweet plant in 2018 and reopened it late last year, uses proprietary technology to produce sweetener, flavor, and fragrance products.

President Brendan Naulty said the company’s target products include a “next-generation” zero-calorie sweetener derived from the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. He said the sweetener will not have the “taste limitations of earlier versions of Stevia.”

“This additional capacity enables Manus to deliver commercial-scale volumes of its Stevia sweetener as well as other flavor and fragrance products which it is currently manufacturing,” Naulty said.

Manus Bio had 100 workers on the payroll in November 2019 when it held a grand opening event at the 44-acre fermentation and ingredient-processing plant on Lovers Lane. The company said its recent investments in the facility have doubled its production capabilities, but it declined to disclose specific production figures.

The company was founded on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where company CEO Ajikumar Parayil and his research team developed an engineered bacterium and fermentation process that produces low-cost quantities of rebaudioside M, the zero-calorie natural sweetener found in the stevia plant.

Manus Bio’s products are used in stevia-based products in more than three dozen countries.

Stevia has become popular as a replacement for sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and food. Manus Bio’s fermentation technology can be used to produce complex natural ingredients for other products, including flavorings, fragrances, cosmetics, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals.

The former NutraSweet plant had been idle since its closure in 2014. The facility was built in 1984 by G.D. Searle and Co., whose researchers discovered aspartame in 1965 while working on amino acids to develop ulcer treatment.