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Number 5

Volume 33 May 22 2019

Editorial

Details are emerging on cuts to Ontario R&D – and the news isn’t good.

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Opinion Leader:
Joy Johnson

Are we in danger of building another patriarchal system with the emergence of precision medicine?

The emergence of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) and its integration with health science, we are seeing incredible innovation on the horizon, but will we all benefit from the dawn of precision medicine or only a privileged few?

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News Bites

News Briefs

The Short Report - May 22, 2019: Discovery Grants, IP Expert Panel, Cannabis and UFC

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has awarded an unprecedented $588 million in grants to more than 4,850 researchers, exceeding the record $558 million awarded last October to nearly 4,300 recipients. (R$, October 31, 2018) Today’s announcement includes: $426 million in Discovery Grants for more than 2,295 researchers; $6.2 million in Discovery Launch Supplements for 499 early-career researchers; and, $83 million in Scholarship and Fellowships to support nearly 1,700 graduate students and fellows. The funding stems from the historic $4 billion for research committed in Budget 2018. – NSERC

The Ontario government is launching an expert panel and online consultation on intellectual property with the goal of maximizing commercial opportunities for academia in its work with incubators, accelerators and regional innovation centres. The panel’s report, due in December, will also include an action plan for a provincial IP framework. The panel members are: Jim Balsillie, co-founder of the Council of Canadian Innovators; Dr. Shiri Breznitz, associate professor, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto; Myra Tawfik, EPICentre professor of Intellectual Property Commercialization and Strategy, University of Windsor; Dr. Dan Herman, VP of Strategy and Partnerships, Myant Inc.; and Natalie Raffoul, managing partner, Brion Raffoul Intellectual Property Law. – Ontario Government

After more than 18 years, the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity ceased operations May 16 following a decision by the Ontario government to cut all its funding, which amounted to just under $1 million annually. Prior to closing, the institute published a final Prosperity scorecard for Ontario, rating the province on 10 indicators. Their website will remain archived until 2021. The recent Ontario budget also cut funding to the Mowat Centre. – IC&P

Innovation minister Navdeep Bains today launched Canada’s new Digital Charter, as well as an action plan for implementing the Charter’s 10 principles: universal access; safety and security; control and consent; transparency, portability and interoperability; open and modern digital government; a level playing field; data and digital for good; strong democracy; free from hate and violent extremism; and, strong enforcement and real accountability. – GoC

Invest Ottawa has launched the $11-million Ottawa L5 Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Test Facilities, which will allow innovators and companies to tackle issues such as CAV operations in inclement weather, safety and security, interoperability, data collection and analytics, and connectivity. – Invest Ottawa

The University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design is awarding $1.2 million to nine research teams to advance regenerative medicine research and translation, using tools such as synthetic biology and mathematical modeling. – U of T

Aurora Cannabis Inc., Edmonton, has inked an exclusive, multi-year, multi-million collaboration with mixed martial arts organization UFC to advance clinical research on the relationship between hemp derived Cannabidiol (CBD) products and athlete wellness and recovery. The research will be conducted at the UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas and led by Dr. Jason Dyck, a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine at the University of Alberta. – Newswire

University of Calgary spin off Parvus Therapeutics has signed a licence agreement with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to further develop and commercialize a precision nanomedicine treatment for autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune liver diseases. – Parvus

Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions has made several recent investments: $500,000 to Reflex Photonics to acquire specialized equipment for making of electronic optics and photonic products; $2.6 million (includes Quebec funding) to Carrefour Québec International to help Quebec companies grow markets outside the province; $500,000 to Laboratoire M2, Sherbrooke to tap new markets for its non-toxic and biodegradable disinfectant product for cows and cattle; $500,000 to electronics firm Gentec Inc. to complete an expansion and modernize its operations; and, $100,000 to Laval Smart Mobility Incubator and Accelerator (CIAMIL) to acquire cloud computing infrastructure. – GoC

The Mining Association of Canada is receiving $325,000 from Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Program towards a $650,000 project to develop best practices and guidance for the mining sector on climate change risks and adaptation measures. – GoC

A Vancouver-based precision oncology company, Cancer Treatment Options and Management Inc., is launching a new bioltech company, Liquid Biopsy Labs that uses a simple blood test to check for cancer cells in the body. Its patent-pending technology claims to produce tests that are 99% accurate, and show signs of cancers months, even years, before a tumor would be visible with traditional imaging tools. – Newswire

The Hawaii Department of Transportation is demonstrating the effectiveness of carbon-injected concrete using a process developed by Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies Inc. Carbon dioxide captured by Hawaii Gas and distributed by Matheson Gas is mixed into the concrete using CarbonCure Technology where it is converted to a mineral and permanently embedded within the concrete. – CarbonCure

The Grapevine

Dr. Jane Rylett, a neuroscientist and expert in Alzheimer research, will take over as scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Aging effective August 1. Rylett is currently associate dean in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, and a scientist in the Molecular Medicine Research Laboratories at Robarts Research Institute. – GoC

University of Canberra president Dr. Deep Saini has been appointed president of Dalhousie University, effective January 1, 2020. Saini earned his PhD in plant physiology from the University of Adelaide in Australia and has worked at four different U15 universities in Canada, including VP at the University of Toronto. – Dalhousie

Dr. Nicolas Bélanger, a professor in TÉLUQ University’s Department of Science and Technology, will become the scientific director of the Réseau Reboisement Ligniculture Québec (2RLQ), a new research network focused on intensive forest production. The network will have an annual budget of $110,000, with funding from the Quebec government and partners. – UQuebec

The Short Report - May 15, 2019: Early career awards, cannabis R&D, AI

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan has announced the first 157 early career researchers to share $38 million under the recently launched New Frontiers in Research Fund. Each recipient will receive up to $250,000 over the next two years to support international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and high-risk research. – Newswire

Vancouver-based Centre for Drug Research and Development has brokered a collaborative agreement with TRIUMF and its commercialization arm – TRIUMF Innovations – to develop novel radiopharmaceuticals for personalized cancer treatments. Watch for the full article next week. – CDRD

Quebec’s largest pharmaceutical employer, Pharmascience Inc., is launching Royalmount Laboratories – a new Montreal division specializing in contract research services for local and international companies, with a focus on cannabis testing for third parties. – Newswire

Cannabis Growth Opportunity Corp. is turning Vaudreuil-Dorion’s former Hoffmann-La Roche Complex into an incubation centre for startups. The massive 180,000 sq. ft. C3 Cannabis Innovation Centre – which is affiliated with McGill University’s Center for Cannabis Research – will provide cannabis growers, producers, processors and researchers with access to R&D, early production and capital, while reducing commercialization costs and accelerating time to market. – Newswire

Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics Inc. has brought aboard the Vaccine Research Centre (Bethesda, MD) and Ichor Medical Systems (San Diego, CA) to participate in a USD$30-million U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project to develop field-ready countermeasures against viral outbreaks within 60 days. – AbCellera

After three years of R&D, Resolve Digital Health is seeking a medical device licence from Health Canada for two more of its “smart” cannabis vaporizers. The Toronto company is seeking similar regulatory approvals in the European Union, Australia, Israel and Central and South America. – Resolve

Alberta’s cannabis sector has united to create the Alberta Cannabis Council, representing cannabis producers, retailers, clinics and industry affiliates, including public agencies, the scientific research community, industry affiliates and post-secondary institutions. The not-for-profit’s inaugural executive director is Michelle Russell, formerly head of business development at cannabis consulting company 420 Advisory Management. – Newswire

New Brunswick Power has received $1-million from Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program to launch a one-year research and demonstration project testing the feasibility of conservation voltage reduction in helping consumers conserve more energy and increase renewable energy use. – Newswire

A team of lawyers and scientists at Element AI Inc. in Montreal have developed an “easy-to-use” online Data Licensing Tool to foster transparency and clarity in the use of datasets for machine learning applications. The global artificial intelligence research and legal communities are also invited to improve and adopt Element AI’s recently released Montreal Data License paper – a proposed framework designed to bring legal clarity to individuals and companies that make data available to third parties for use-cases in the field of artificial intelligence. – Newswire

Google is providing a $500,000 grant to the Actua youth outreach network to develop AI curriculum for Canadian high-school students as part of its new Codemakers program. – Newswire

CIFAR is providing $300,000 in funding and in-kind support to expand the CIFAR-OSMO AI for Good Summer Lab, which will provide up to 30 undergraduate women from across Canada with training and networking opportunities in artificial intelligence. – CIFAR

The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation has launched its $2.5-million Spark program which will provide front-line care workers with up to $50,000 to translate grassroots ideas into early stage innovations in the field of aging and brain health. – Newswire

The federal government has unveiled a new pilot program, Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada, a charter and $5.3 million in grants to help universities and colleges address systemic barriers, particularly those experienced by members of underrepresented or disadvantaged groups. The letter of intent deadline for the pilot is June 3. – GoC

The governments of Quebec and Canada have awarded $1.3 million to the Pôle d’excellence de l’industrie des systèmes électroniques du Québec (ISEQ) – a centre of excellence that supports the development of the province’s electronics systems industry. The funding will allow ISEQ to create a regional office that supports electronic system companies in the Mauricie region. – GoC

Nicoya, a Kitchener ON-based nanotech company, is receiving $2.57 million from FedDev Ontario to develop and market a new version of its world-first desktop surface plasmon resonance instrument (SPR), marketed as a more accurate, portable, and cost-effective method for collecting data for R&D. – GoC

Nancy White has been appointed CEO of Inagene Diagnostics Inc., a Toronto startup that has launched its first product – a genetic test for pain treatments and dependency risk. The company’s former CEO, life sciences executive Peter Brenders, becomes strategic advisor to the chair. – Inagene

Montreal-based IRICoR (Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer – Commercialization of Research) has added three new directors to its board: Annie Gauthier, partner at the law firm BCF; Bettina Hamelin, president and CEO of Ontario Genomics; and Bernard Lachapelle, president of The JBL Group Inc. – IRICoR

Nanomedicine pioneer Mauro Ferrari takes over January 1 as the new president of the European Research Council, after early 40 years working as a researcher in the U.S. Ferrari will be responsible for overseeing the rollout of Horizon Europe, described as “the most ambitious EU research and innovation programme ever”. – European Commission

People

The Short Report – May 8, 2019: Cannabis R&D, fuel cell demo, accelerator funding

With the goal becoming a mainstream healthcare company, Smiths Falls, ON-based Canopy Growth Corp. has spun off a new division – Spectrum Therapeutics – to oversee the company’s commercial medical and clinical research operations including Spectrum Cannabis, Canopy Health Innovations, and recently acquired Germany-based C3Cannabinoid Compound Company, which develops cannabinoid-based medical therapies. – Canopy Growth

Toronto-based FSD Pharma and Solarvest of Vancouver are investing an initial $1 million over two years in a collaborative R&D project to develop a proof of concept that algae can express pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids – a process that could significantly reduce production times. The two companies have also created a joint scientific review committee. – Newswire

Ballard Power Systems, Vancouver, is supplying its next-generation fuel cell modules for a $15-million project that will test hydrogen’s ability to fuel Alberta’s heavy duty trucking industry. The three-year Alberta Zero-Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration project builds on more than a year’s worth of research, data analysis and scenario modelling done by the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research Initiative. – Ballard

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has announced $44 million for 75 projects at 24 universities under the outgoing Strategic Partnership Grants program (to be consolidated under the new Alliance Grants program. See article). A full list of projects can be found here. – NSERC

The first call for proposals has been launched for the Incubators and Accelerators Driven by Excellence, a new federal initiative that will award $12 million over four years to Quebec business incubators and accelerators. – Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions 

Ericsson says it will create more than 30 new jobs for data scientists, engineers, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning architects, and software developers this year at its new Global AI Accelerator innovation hub in Montreal. The company also has GAIA hubs in the U.S., Sweden and India. – Ericsson

Concordia University’s District 3 innovation hub has partnered with Fonds de recherché du Québec to launch the province-wide Quebec Scientific Entrepreneurship (QcSE) program. The goal is to see 10% of Quebec PhD and postdoctoral researchers involved in translating their research into start-ups. – Concordia

The BC Institute of Technology officially opened its Summit Centre May 1 to support students in starting, growing and scaling their own ventures. – BCIT

Canadian companies are continuing to rely heavily on foreign capital, particularly from the U.S. According to the Canadian Venture Capital Report, released by CPE Media Analytics, the majority of $1.28 billion in venture capital raised in Canada in Q1 2019 came from U.S. investors (53%), with Canadian investors contributing 19%. – Newswire

The Government of Canada is investing $2.6 million to design, create and implement a gender equity research hub to support applied research in sport. A two-day forum will be held at the end of May to determine the parameters of the new research hub. – GoC, Minister Duncan’s remarks

The University of Ottawa is establishing a satellite office in the region’s tech hub – Kanata North – focusing on areas such as telecom, data analytics, machine learning and autonomous vehicle systems. U of O is also partnering with Kanata North firms and the National Research Council in a consortium looking into optical satellite communications challenges of the future. – Kanata North

A University of Guelph research project to turn co-products from ethanol production into new products has been awarded $1 million over five years from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and three industry partners, IGPC Ethanol, Competitive Green Technologies and Greenfield Global. – U of G

Other federal funding announcements:  96 recipients will share $9 million in grants under the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s PromoScience program (NSERC); $2.4 million to the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, NB to study how spill response measures (e.g., dispersant chemicals) affect fish and other aquatic species (GoC);

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research has launched the AICan Bulletin, a new bi-monthly newsletter about artificial intelligence in Canada, produced in collaboration with Amii, Mila and the Vector Institute. – CIFAR

PEOPLE

2019 NSERC Prize Winners: $1 million Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering – Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a University of Toronto geologist who discovered the oldest water on earth; $250,000 John C. Polanyi Award – Dr. Douglas Stephan (University of Toronto); Brockhouse Canada team award – Drs. Pascale Champagne, Michael Cunningham, Philip Jessop and Warren Mabee (Queen’s); Synergy Awards – Dr. Paul Charette (Sherbrooke), Luc Landry (Cégep de La Pocatière), Dr. Amar Mohanty (Guelph) and Dr. Roberto Morandotti (INRS); E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships: Drs. Lin Cai (Victoria), Maud Ferrari (Saskatchewan), Erin Johnson (Dalhousie), Paul McNicholas (McMaster), Dwight Seferos (Toronto) and Hongbo Zeng (Alberta); and the NSERC Gilles Brassard Doctoral Prize – Dr. Anna Golubeva (Waterloo). – NSERC

Université Laval professor of animal sciences Dr. Janice Bailey began a new job in May as the scientific director of Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies. – FRQNT

McGill University academic-clinician Dr. Sarah Prichard has been named acting VP (Research) at Western University for a one-year term, effective July 1. A search for a permanent research leader will take place shortly after Western President-elect Alan Shepard begins his term in July. – WesternU

Dr. Gina Conte has been appointed director of genetics at Toronto-based TruTrace Technologies Inc., previously named BLOCKStrain Technology, which has developed the first integrated blockchain platform to register and track intellectual property in the cannabis industry. – Newswire

Dr. Charles Pollack, who recently left the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, which he founded at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, takes over as chair of the scientific advisory board at Toronto-based FSD Pharma Inc., where he will provide advice on cannabinoid therapeutic programs. – Newswire

The Short Report – May 1, 2019: Licensing income, new Teachers fund, federal investments

Details are beginning to emerge on cuts to R&D in the April 11 Ontario budget: $1 million for the Mowat Centre (closing), the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity (closing) and the province’s Health System Research Fund (clawed back). R$ will investigate these and other cuts further. – Mowat Centre

Canada and Japan have signed two agreements to strengthen investment and research ties. One between Invest in Canada and the Japan External Trade Organization will make it easier for Canadian and Japanese companies to partner, and another between the National Research Council of Canada and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International of Japan will support R&D in fields like robotics and telecommunications. – PMO

The Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation has approved $4.28 million in new funding for seven industry-led projects in life sciences, artificial intelligence, clean tech, cybersecurity, and information and communications technologies. – CIIRDF

Environment and Climate Change Canada is joining international partners in funding new research by the World Economic Forum that, in its first phase, will examine the economic value of nature associated with biodiversity, the climate, and society, and “high-ambition solutions” based on evidence. GoC 

Canada’s academic institutions generated just $75 million from licensing income in 2017, with the University of Saskatchewan leading the pack ($18.5 million), while the number of inventor disclosures hit 1,882 – an 11% increase over 2016, reversing a three-year downward trend (AUTM).

Canada’s largest private funder of vision research, Fighting Blindness Canada, is calling for a national vision health strategy – including increased research funding for clinical trials – to avert an emerging vision health care crisis that could see the number of people living with blindness double by 2031. – Newswire

Innovation, Science and Economic Development has launched a series of initiatives to foster a more inclusive intellectual property system for Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions, including an IP grants program and a new Indigenous Peoples and IP webpage. – GoC

The federal government is one of several partners investing in the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Canadian Data platform, a seven-year, $81.35-million initiative that provides a single portal through which researchers will be able to request access to a multitude of administrative, clinical, and social data from various sources across the country. – CIHR

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) has launched the Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP), which will focus on late-stage venture capital and growth equity investments in companies that use technology (e.g., computing, materials science, robotics and medicine) to disrupt incumbents and create new sectors. – OTPP

BMO has launched a Technology & Innovation Banking Group to provide advice and funding to help scale high-growth companies, from startup to post exit or IPO. – BMO

Vancouver-based medical diagnostics company LightIntegra Technology Inc. has raised about $7.1 million in a Series A financing, led by Genome BC and Boardwalk Ventures Inc., to commercialize a first-of-its kind test to quickly analyze blood quality for transfusions. – BusinessWire

The Saskatchewan Research Council and Saskatoon-based research company Kanata Earth Genetics Inc. have partnered to provide analytical testing and genomic services to licensed cannabis producers across Canada. – Newswire

Recent federal funding announcements: $1.9 million for the World Trade Centre Montréal to expand its Trade Accelerator Program to communities across Quebec (GoC); $15.3 million for 15 projects through the Substance Use and Addictions Program, the Harm Reduction Fund and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (GoC); over $1.6 million to the University of Lethbridge to enhance its Terrestrial Eco-system Remote Sensing program and to help the local Piikani First Nation meld traditional teaching with new technological innovations in community-based environmental monitoring (GoC); $11.2 million to the Bioproducts Cluster, led by Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, to develop new applications for farm crops and residues (GoC); $2 million for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s new Centre for Grid Innovation to help companies develop and test innovative power generation technologies (NAIT); $6.7 million to Eavor Technologies Inc., Calgary, to develop a demonstration facility for a closed-loop geothermal system (Newswire); and nearly $3.5 million for two projects at the University of Winnipeg – machine learning for digital agriculture, and a precision agriculture platform (UWinnipeg).

PEOPLE ITEMS

Dr. Douglas Muzyka, the former president for DuPont’s operations in Canada, Mexico and China, replaces Tom Jenkins as the new chair of the National Research Council’s governing council. – GoC

The National Angel Capital Organization has appointed Claudio Rojas, formerly managing direct at Hurt Capital Inc., as its CEO. Rojas replaces Yuri Navarro who moves over to Montreal-based Panache Ventures, a venture capital firm specializing in seed stage startup investments. – NACO

Olivia Steedman has been tagged to lead the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan new investment vehicle, the Teachers’ Innovation Platform. Steedman was previously the senior leader of OTPP’s infrastructure and natural resources group. – OTPP

Andre Salvi, who recently led strategy partnerships with fintech companies for BMO, will head the bank’s new Technology & Innovation Banking Group.  The group also includes managing directors Devon Dayton and Deirdre Bergin. – BMO

Lionel Pellizzari is the new senior director, development and innovation, at Développement international Desjardins in Quebec City where he will coordinate activities related to digital and technological solutions. – DID

The Quebec government has appointed former PricewaterhouseCoopers executive Guy LeBlanc as president and CEO of Investissement Québec and a member of the agency’s board of directors. He replaced Pierre Gabriel Côté effective April 23. – Investissement Québec

The Manitoba government has appointing seven new members to the board of Research Manitoba: Tracey Maconachie (chair), Dr. Rashid Ahmed, Doreen Bilodeau, Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy, Luis Escobar, Earl Gardiner and Andrea Legary. Dr. Digvir Jayas and Christopher Johnson were reappointed to the board. (Gov-MB)

The federal government has appointed several researchers, as well as physicians and patient advocates, to the new Scientific Advisory Committee on Health Products for Women. The researchers include: Dr. Lorraine Greaves (chair) (UBC), Dr. Cara Tannenbaum (UdeM), Dr. Ashley Waddington (Queen’s), Dr. David Urbach (U of T), Dr. Sherif Eltonsy (U of M), Dr. Sharon Batt (Dalhousie) and Dr. Louise Pilote (McGill). – GoC

Dr. Kim McGrail, professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health, will lead the new Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Canadian Data platform which will make it easier for researchers to access and analyze health research data.

After almost three years as ArcticNet executive director, Leah Braithwaite has returned to Environment and Climate Change Canada to resume her federal public service career. Dr. Mickael Lemay will take on her duties as acting manager of the network.

York University deputy provost Dr. Rui Wang takes over as interim VP of research and innovation at the institution effective May 1, replacing Robert Haché who will become Laurentian University’s next president and vice-chancellor. – YorkU

Dr. Marcelin Joanis, an expert in public economics and professor at Polytechnique Montréal, has been appointed VP for research at the Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations in Montreal. – CIRANO

Queen’s University researcher Dr. James Reynolds becomes chief science officer at Kids Brain Health, after serving as acting CSO for the past year. One of his first priorities will be crafting a successful Cycle III proposal to the Networks of Centres of Excellence program. – Kids Brain Health

Health Sciences North and the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury ON have appointed Dr. Greg Ross as VP, academic and research impact, effective May 1. – Health Sciences North

The University of Toronto has selected Dr. Christopher Yip for a five-year term as dean of Applied Science & Engineering effective July 1. Yip currently serves as U of T’s associate VP, international partnerships. – U of T

Dr. George Belliveau, who specializes in research-based theatre and performed research, takes over July 1 as department head, Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. – UBC

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