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New national standard for data governance published

The Chief Information Officers (CIO) Strategy Council has published a new national standard for data governance, enabling organizations to create a “trust environment” for third-party interactions and help secure their data assets.

Why Canada needs a national vaccine strategy

The private sector has little appetite for manufacturing small-volume, niche vaccines for pandemic viruses. That’s why any primary manufacturing facility for vaccines like COVID-19 need to be federally owned and operated.

Latest Issue:

Number 5

Volume 34 May 20 2020

Editorial

Expert groups called for a national and holistic approach to pandemic planning in 1993 and again in 2003. With $1-million in seed funding, the current federal government is finally moving to make a long-term research and pandemic strategy a reality.

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Feds invest $887 million to ensure reliable vaccine supply for COVID-19, other pandemics

The federal government’s investment of $887 million make Canada self-sufficient in manufacturing vaccines against COVID-19 and future pandemics, say medical and other experts. Along with Canadian-led vaccine development, Ottawa is investing in a network of small-scale vaccine manufacturing facilities that together will be able to produce enough vaccine for Canada’s population during pandemics.

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Short Report

The Short Report, May 6, 2020: AbCellera receives $175.6M for COVID-19 therapies; Canada contributes $850 million to global pandemic response; new “super angel” fund launches; and more

Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics will receive up to $175.6 million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund to fast-track antibody therapies against COVID-19. The funding will also go to build a first-of-its-kind antibody manufacturing facility over the next four years to help Canada respond to future pandemics. AbCellera has partnered with global biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to rapidly manufacture and distribute a treatment. The investment is part of $192 million in SIF COVID-19 funding announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau March 23. The largess of public money has raised concerns from a few researchers on Twitter, with some questioning the lack of a peer-review selection process and whether the funding is repayable. “Is this a grant or an actual investment? Does the Crown now own part of the company? It should, given the circumstance and cost,” writes Dr. Jim Woodgett, director of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. – AbCellera

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined other global leaders to launch the Coronavirus Global Response – an online pledging marathon running throughout May that aims to raise USD$8 billion for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to combat COVID-19. Funds may also be used to strengthen health systems. Canada has so far committed $850 million, including for: R&D of medical countermeasures, accelerated vaccine development (e.g., Coalition for the Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), the World Health Organization Solidarity Trial, and genome sequencing. – GoC

The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium has begun working with the newly formed Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) to share knowledge, lessons learned and protocols as both countries sequence and analyze the spread and evolution of the SARs-CoV-2 virus and how it affects patients. Prof. Sharon Peacock from Public Health England said the UK’s experience in this area “will help CanCOGeN rapidly develop its capacity”. – Genome Canada

The new COVID-19 Immunity Task Force is moving quickly. In its first weekly meeting, members agreed on an accelerated process that, by mid-May, will enable the scale-up of existing fieldwork on immunity. The group began setting an agenda for new immunity analyses to meet the needs of Canadian decision-makers and the general public. For example, the task force will be supporting rapid implementation of population surveys, geographies, and occupational groups, in collaboration with biobanks, blood banks, public health agencies, hospitals, others. The task force has also agreed to plan and support a program of rapid-cycle research to address questions about how immunity to the novel coronavirus develops, how strong it is and how long it lasts. – Task Force

A consortium of super angels and venture capitalists from the Toronto-Waterloo region has created an investment fund to support early stage companies. In addition to funding, the ArchAngel Network of Funds will provide access to expertise and global partner networks. The network will focus initially on supporting entrepreneurs creating solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic, before expanding to smart manufacturing, green technology and health sciences. The fund is looking to raise about $10 million and the first investments are expected to be awarded within weeks. – ArchAngel Network of Funds

The founders of the newly established Innovation Economy Council (IEC) —MaRS, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Communitech, DMZ, Invest Ottawa and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine — have published the group’s first white paper: The post-viral pivot: How Canada’s tech startups can drive the recovery from COVID-19. Authored by former Globe and Mail columnist Barrie McKenna, the report examines how Canada’s startups are best positioned to lead Canada’s post-COVID-19 recovery, and the consequences if they are not adequately supported. – MaRS

Canada’s intellectual property marketplace – ExploreIP – has begun highlighting technologies that interested companies can license and commercialize in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched August 2019, ExploreIP is a free online searchable database of over 3,250 inventions held by government, academia or other public sector institutions. For more information, contact ExploreIP@canada.ca.

Canada Revenue Agency is expediting claims to its Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program to help cash-strapped companies weather the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. CRA posted a notice May 1 stating that, “Most refundable claims will be processed as soon as possible with minimal burden on the claimants, injecting funding into businesses that need it now to help manage the adverse financial implications of the pandemic. Claims accepted at this time may be subject to review/audit at a future date to ensure eligibility.” – CRA

The Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition has awarded over $1.5 million to 40 research teams focused on COVID-19 related projects. Projects include clinical sciences, delivery sciences, health systems improvement and social sciences. A few projects include COVID-19’s impact on infant feeding, burnout of front-line health care workers, dementia patients, and leveraging artificial intelligence to provide direction on how to deploy tests, vaccines or other interventions. – NS Health

The Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) Research Center has extended its COLCORONA COVID-19 clinical trial to a third Canadian province. As of April 30, Ontarians who test positive for COVID-19, but are not hospitalized, may be eligible for this contactless at-home study which is investigating whether this anti-inflammatory medication can reduce the rate of hospitalization of individuals recently diagnosed with COVID-19. There are now numerous sites across Canada, the US and Spain taking part in the trial, which is expected to expand to other provinces soon. – MHI

Vancouver-based Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc. (formerly Breathtec Biomedical) has received the go-ahead from Health Canada to proceed with a Phase 2b/3 trials multinational clinical trial for Ifenprodil (NP-12) as a potential coronavirus therapy. Ifenprodil is a generic neurological drug developed by Sanofi in the 1970s that Algernon is hoping to repurpose as a possible treatment to reduce the number of COVID-19 patients from progressing to mechanical ventilation with intubation and death. – GlobeNewswire

In other news…

Provincial and federal investments of $4.5 million will help Edmonton-based TerraVerdae Bioworks Inc. develop new product development capacity for biodegradable industrial plastics used in agricultural, forestry, food packaging, adhesives and personal care markets. TerraVerdae’s polymer technology (polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA) uses renewable carbon feedstock such as municipal and forestry waste or agricultural residues. Funding was provided by Alberta Innovates, Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Program, Industrial Research Assistance Program and other investors. – TerraVerdae

The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Clean Energy Canada, the Clean Resource Innovation Network and the Petroleum Services Association of Canada have created an alliance to promote Canadian geothermal development and to create jobs in the struggling oil and gas sector. One technology being promoted is Eavor-Loop™, developed by Calgary-based Eavor Technologies. A successful demonstration project last year, supported by Natural Resources Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta, showed that the technology can be scaled up quickly and financed with little production risk. – Eavor

Ucore Rare Metals Inc., a junior exploration and technology company based in Bedford, NS, is acquiring Toronto-based Innovation Metals Corp. for $5.8 million. Innovation Metals has developed a technology (RapidSXTM) that lowers the capital and operating costs for separating critical metals, including rare earth elements, lithium, nickel and cobalt. As part of the deal, Ucore will also invest $2.8 million to further develop RapidSXTM as well as UCore’s M3 (Mine to Metal to Market) Plan of Action. – Ucore

THE GRAPEVINE

New members have been named to the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. The current list now includes: Co-chairs, Dr. Catherine Hankins, (Professor of Public and Population Health at McGill University) and Dr. David Naylor, (former president, University of Toronto); executive director, Dr. Tim Evans (director of the School of Population and Global Health, McGill University); ex-officio members, Dr. Theresa Tam (Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer); Dr. Mona Nemer (Canada’s chief science advisor), and Dr. Stephen Lucas (DM Health); leadership group members, Dr. Carrie Bourassa, Indigenous engagement lead (scientific director, Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health), Dr. Vivek Goel (VP research and innovation, University of Toronto), Dr. Scott Halperin (professor, Canadian Immunization Research Network), Dr. Charu Kaushic (scientific director, CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity), Dr. James Kellner (consultant in pediatric infectious diseases and professor, University of Calgary), Dr. Susan Kirkland (professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University), Dr. Gary Kobinger (director, Infectious Diseases Research Centre, Laval University, Dr. Mel Krajden (Medical director, BCCDC Public Health Laboratory), Dr. Richard Massé (special advisor, Government of Quebec), Dr. Allison McGeer (professor, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto), Dr. Deborah Money (clinician scientist, Women’s Health Research Institute), Dr. Gina Ogilvie (professor, School of Population Health, University of British Columbia), Kevin Orrell (DM, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness), Dr. Jutta Preiksaitis (professor emeritus, Infectious Diseases, University of Alberta), Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh (lead, infection prevention and control unit, CHU Sainte-Justine), Dr. James Talbot (adjunct professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta), and Dr. Paul van Caeseele (medical director, Cadham Provincial Laboratory, Manitoba Health). – COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

Darren Lawless left Humber College this week to join McMaster University as the assistant VP, research innovation partnerships. Lawless joined Humber in 2015 as dean of research, after several earlier positions as a senior R&D executive, and as Sheridan College’s first dean of research and innovation. At Humber he played a key role in the development of the Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation.

Dr. Erasmus Okine has been appointed interim provost and VP (academic) at the University of Lethbridge. Okline joined the university in 2015 as VP (research), during which time he grew the number of research partnerships by about 60%. Okine, a native of Ghana, completed a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science at the University of Ghana before coming to Alberta to complete a PhD at the University of Alberta. – University of Lethbridge

Dr. Gareth Hatch, CEO of Innovation Metals Corp. of Toronto, will become the chief technology officer of Ucore Rare Metals, Bedford, NS. Ucore is acquiring Innovation Metals, which has developed a technology (RapidSXTM) that lowers the capital and operating costs for separating critical metals. Ucore

Amber Lannon has been appointed university librarian at Carleton University after serving on an interim basis since January. She joined Carleton in July 2016 as associate university librarian (Academic Services), responsible for research support, research collections and other services. Previously, she held several positions at McGill University, including head librarian in the humanities and social sciences branch and acting associate dean of user services. – Carleton

The Short Report, April 28, 2020: Alarming drop in donations for health charities; Health Canada approves COVID-19 clinical trial; and more

Health charities are seeing an “alarming” drop in donations, which they warn will compromise the health of Canadians living with chronic disease. HealthPartners, a collaboration of 16 Canadian charities, released the findings in its report, The Impact of COVID-19 on our Most Vulnerable Canadians. In response to declining donations, the report says health charities have laid off staff, in some cases 30-45%, and postponed or cancelled clinical research and trials. The Canadian Cancer Society, for example, is estimating losses of $100 million this year. HealthPartners has written to prime minister Justin Trudeau asking for financial assistance. – HealthPartners

Vancouver-based SaNOtize Research and Development Corp. has received Health Canada approval to begin a multi-centre Phase II trial for front-line antiviral prevention and early treatment for use against COVID-19. Lab tests conducted by Utah-based Institute for Antiviral Research found that SaNOtize’s patented Nitric Oxide Releasing Solution (NORSTM) is over 99.9% effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The results were produced within two minutes. The goal is to produce ready-to-use, inexpensive and rapidly-scalable applications delivered through gargle solutions, nasal spray and nasal lavage. – SaNOtize

The University of Toronto will support 31 research projects through the new $8.4-million Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund. The projects were chosen based on their potential to have a positive impact on individuals, communities and public health systems within a timeframe of a year or less. They were selected from among 338 applicants via a fast-tracked, peer-reviewed competition. Less than 30 days elapsed between the creation of the fund and the winning projects being announced. – U of T

Stem Cell Network (SCN) is providing $675,000 for three COVID-19 research projects, which will be matched by more than $778,000 in partner funding. The projects, which include one clinical trial and two research projects led by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and The Hospital for Sick Children, are part of SCN’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Initiative that was launched April 1. The additional funding for SCN was announced April 23 as part of the federal government’s $1.1-billion investment in a national medical and research strategy to fight COVID-19. The projects will begin by mid-May. – SCN

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has launched a new funding stream as part of its Council’s College and Community Innovation Program – Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19. Colleges and polytechnics can receive up to $75,000 for one year, and must address topics of immediate relevance to the COVID-19 outbreak. Projects can assist industry (e.g. prototyping, enhanced production processes, data analytics) or community challenges (e.g. impact of social isolation on vulnerable populations, addressing mental health impacts of COVID-19). – NSERC

The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) and the Canadian Barley Research Coalition (CBRC) are urging Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to continue farmer-funded wheat and barley research activities at AAFC’s western Canadian research stations in 2020. “We are facing an unprecedented situation with respect to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of researchers and other staff is our top priority,” said CWRC chair Jason Lenz. “The universities and private plant breeders have found safe options to conduct their research. We’re confident AAFC can also create a plan to continue critical research and provide clarity to western Canadian farmers.” – Yorkton This Week

A new report from the Public Policy Forum, titled New North Star II, details how Canadian policymakers can navigate a new course in industrial strategy, one that builds both on its past innovation strengths and current economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Building off of last year’s seminal report on the rise of the Intangibles Economy, PPF’s newest contribution to Canada’s economic conversation proposes an industrial plan to “rebuild Canada” post COVID-19. A plan that should be starting not in two years, but in a few months,” says Sean Speers, one of the report’s authors. – Public Policy Forum

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre in Ottawa has launched an online survey to examine the psychological, social, and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic at various stages of the outbreak. University of Ottawa researcher Dr. Rebecca Robillard is leading the study in collaboration with scientists with hospitals and universities in Ontario and Quebec. – The Royal

Montreal-based BrainBox AI has raised $12 million to further deploy its artificial intelligence technology for buildings across North America and abroad. BrainBox AI’s solution, which combines deep learning, cloud-based computing and autonomous decision making, enables the HVAC system in a building to operate autonomously, in real-time, generating up to a 25% reduction in total energy costs, a 20-40% reduction in carbon footprint and a 60% increase in occupant comfort. The financing round was led by Desjardins Capital. – BrainBox AI

United Farmers of Alberta Co-operative Ltd. (UFA) and Zone Startups Calgary (ZSC) have partnered to support early-stage agriculture technology companies with technical and commercial validation. ZSC will identify tech companies that can address UFA and its customer’s innovation challenges, as well as provide agricultural technology companies with access to market, commercialization programming, and support. – GlobeNewsWire

THE GRAPEVINE

The federal government has established a new COVID-19 Immunity Task Force to provide decision-makers with the data they need to understand the impact of the disease on vulnerable populations, while also leveraging new and existing lab capacity for research. The task force will operate under the direction of a leadership group tasked with establishing priorities and overseeing the coordination of a series of serological surveys (blood tests) to detect the presence of virus-specific antibodies. The task force will be supported by an external secretariat, led Dr. Tim Evans, director of the School of Population and Global Health at McGill University. The leadership group includes: Dr. David Naylor, co-chair (former president, University of Toronto); Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair (Professor of Public and Population Health at McGill University); Dr. Tim Evans; Dr. Theresa Tam (Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer); and Dr. Mona Nemer (Canada’s chief science advisor). – GoC

Dr. Lesley Rigg will take over as VP (Research) at Western University on August 1. The five-year term also includes her appointment as professor of geography. Rigg is currently dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary. Previously she served in progressively senior roles at Northern Illinois University, including VP (Research). – Western News

University of Toronto doctoral candidate Tej Heer has joined the not-for-profit Evidence for Democracy as a senior research associate. Heer is currently finishing his PhD in physical and environmental sciences at the U of T’s Scarborough campus. His duties include updating E4D’s 2017 Oversight at Risk report on science capacity and integrity in the BC government, evaluating transparency in the development of federal government policies, and studying potential policy and regulatory solutions to minimize the harm of misinformation on our democracy. – E4D

Dr. Michael Rudnicki, scientific director and CEO of the Stem Cell Network, has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society national academy of sciences in the UK. Rudnicki was one of 10 foreign members elected this year. – Stem Cell Network

 

The Short Report – May 20, 2020: Last network renewals for sunsetting NCE program; New accelerator targets healthy living; Canadian health research at “elevated risk” for hacking; and more

The Networks of Centres of Excellence has awarded $80.7 million in funding to five networks – the last cohorts to be renewed as the NCE program begins winding down over the next few years. Three-year renewals were granted to: Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life (AGE-WELL) ($22 million); Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment (BioCanRx) ($15 million); Cardiac Arrhythmia Network of Canada (CANet) ($15.7 million); Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet) ($16.3 million); and Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) ($11.7 million). The NCE program will be gradually transferred to the New Frontiers in Research Fund. – NCE

Following a successful pilot, Sustainable Development Technology Canada is expanding its SDTC Seed Fund, which partners with accelerators across the country to fund early stage startups in the environmental technology space. There will be four funding rounds per year, with up to 100 companies each receiving up to $100,000. Companies can later apply for additional funding from SDTC as they mature and scale. – SDTC

Innovative projects led by Indigenous women and gender-diverse individuals will be eligible to receive up to $250,000 as part of a new program launched by the Indigenous Innovative Initiative. The Advancing Indigenous Gender Equality through Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship will fund projects from all sectors and industries that promote gender equality in Indigenous communities. In addition to funding, recipients will also receive capacity building supports and access to key business networks. – Newswire

University Health Network spin-off Northern Biologics has been acquired by German-based Boehringer Ingelheim, the world’s largest private pharmaceutical company. Northern Biologics developed a portfolio of antibody-based therapeutics for oncology and fibrosis. The Toronto-based company was founded in 2014 based on intellectual property developed by scientists at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University of Toronto. – Northern Biologics

The Toronto-based LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact is launching a new accelerator to scale initiatives that will help Canadians move more, sit less, eat better and stop smoking. Called Healthy Futures, the centre will provide $10 million in funding and pro bono support to 11 social ventures. Funders include the Public Health Agency of Canada and the private sector. The deadline for applications is June 19, 2020. – Newswire

An Alberta-led project is seeking to detect powerful neutrinos off the coast of British Columbia. The project, a collaboration between Ocean Networks Canada, University of Victoria, University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University and the Technical University of Munich, has applied to the Canada Foundation for Innovation for funding to deploy a neutrino telescope off the coast of Vancouver Island in 2023. The Pacific Ocean Neutrino Explorer (P-ONE) would be the largest particle detector in North America and would search for light caused by the collision of neutrinos with other particles in the water. – Cybera

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Hydrogen Task Force, an independent working group created to develop a framework to implement a hydrogen economy in the region, was officially launched May 19. Organized by The Transition Accelerator in partnership with the region’s mayors, the Task Force will produce a public report in July detailing the approach and steps needed to advance a zero-emission fuel economy in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. The Task Force will complement work the Government of Canada is leading, with private sector stakeholders, and governments, to develop a hydrogen strategy for Canada. – The Transition Accelerator

Humber College has received $1.8 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to support social innovation and design-driven analytics. The funding includes five grants from NSERC’s College and Community Social Innovation Fund intended to support college research projects in partnership with local community organizations. It also received an Innovation Enhancement grant to help Canadian colleges increase their capacity to work with local companies, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises. Humber will use the IE grant to establish the Institute for Design-Driven Analytics. – NSERC

Edmonton-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Social Asset Management (SAM) has raised $3.6 million to advance a technology that predicts patterns and crises before they become unmanageable. SAM uses AI to analyze open data sources from around the world to identify the earliest signals of emerging risks and potentially threatening situations. The funding round was led by Adventure Capital. – SAM

 

COVID-19 NEWS

COVID-19 research underway in Canada is at an “elevated risk” for hacking, say Canada’s spy agencies. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) issued a rare joint statement warning state-backed actors have shifted focus during the pandemic and that Canadian intellectual property is “a valuable target”.  A similar alert was issued by the CSE’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) March 20: “Sophisticated threat actors may attempt to steal the intellectual property (IP) of organizations engaged in research and development related to COVID-19, or sensitive data related to Canada’s response to COVID-19.” The Cyber Centre also released its Top 10 IT Security Actions that organizations can take to minimize the risk of a cyber-attack. – Cyber Centre and CTV News

Canada’s agriculture sector will receive a $100-million boost with the launch of the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund, launched by the federal government through Farm Credit Canada to help offset losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Established in partnership with Calgary-based venture capital firm Forage Capital Inc., the fund will provide up to $10 million to companies involved in primary production, agri-tech, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. – GoC

The Innovation Economy Council (IEC) has released its first white paper, examining how Canada’s startups are best positioned to lead Canada’s post-COVID-19 recovery and the consequences if they are not adequately supported. The report warns that the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 risks the flow of financing early-stage companies that are essential to developing products and services that will help established industries do things smarter, faster and cheaper. The IEC recommends the federal and provincial governments collaborate to implement stimulus measures that will build the physical and digital infrastructure for Canada’s future economy, and incentivize technology adoption across industries. Policies, it added, should also focus on enhancing the resilience of domestic supply chains and promote collaboration between Canadian firms. The IEC, formed by MaRS, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Communitech, DMZ, Invest Ottawa and Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, is a coalition of industry leaders advocating on behalf of start-up ventures. – OCE

The Government of Ontario is working with Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX), Canada’s first industry-led hub for med-tech start-ups, to provide non-medical manufacturing companies free support as they retool to provide essential supplies and equipment to health care facilities during COVID-19. Companies that have received funding through the $50-million Ontario Together Fund, or a purchase order with the province, can access MIX members’ medical advisory services, including assistance navigating regulatory hurdles and increasing efficiencies. – Government of Ontario

Medicago, Quebec City, has moved closer to human clinical trials of a promising therapy against COVID-19 after its plant-based vaccine candidate induced a positive antibody response 10 days after a single dose in mice. “Once results from a second ‘boost’ dose are available, Medicago will submit a clinical trial application to Health Canada and an investigational new drug submission with the FDA in the United States to allow for the initiation of human clinical trials this summer,” Nathalie Landry, executive VP Scientific and Medical Affairs at Medicago, said in a release. Medicago estimates its current facilities in Quebec and North Carolina could produce up to 20 million and 100 million annual doses, respectively, increasing to more than one billion doses per year once its new factory opens in Quebec in 2023. – Medicago

A clinical trial has begun in London, ON of a modified firefighter’s mask that could significantly reduce aerosolization – the production of airborne respiratory droplets that may contain viruses or bacteria – when treating patients with COVID-19. Led by Lawson Health Research Institute, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), University Health Network and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, the trial will assess the efficacy of the new device which, unlike invasive ventilators, helps patients breath through a mask that is customized from a firefighter’s mask using 3D printing. – LHSC

A multi-country clinical trial led by Canadian researchers is testing whether the blood thinner heparin can help improve survival for COVID-19 patients. Clinician-scientists from the University of Manitoba and the University Health Network will recruit up to 3,000 people with COVID-19 who are in intensive care, as part of a randomized clinical trial to run at 30 sites in Canada, the US, Mexico and Brazil, with other countries expected to come onboard. The trial received funding from a COVID-19 Fast Grant from the Thistledown Foundation, and an Innovation Award from the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre Innovation Committee. – University of Manitoba

Fourteen new artificial intelligence (AI) research projects will be launched to address the COVID-19 outbreak through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research’s (CIFAR) AI and COVID-19 Catalyst Grants initiative. Each project will last three months to one year and will focus on machine learning applications to identify potential treatments, to support public health measures such as social distancing and to better understand the viral transmission of COVID-19. – CIFAR

A new report commissioned by Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer warns that governments need to address the technical, social, legal and ethical issues that may arise from deploying novel technologies in response to COVID-19. The Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Society, Technology and Ethics in a Pandemic (STEP), established by CIFAR, stressed that public trust must be a key consideration when deploying new technologies like contact-tracing apps and antibody tests that could result in “immunity certificates” being issued. The report offers policymakers a framework of guiding principles and implementation advice. – CIFAR

The Southern Ontario Networks for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) has pivoted its operations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by building a supply of essential equipment, products and therapeutics for Canadians. For example, SONAMI member Niagara College is producing 37,000 face shields, which were designed by the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. – Niagara College

An independent group of finance, policy and sustainability leaders has struck a new task force that will spend the next eight weeks developing recommendations on how governments can help get Canadians back to work while also building a low-carbon and resilient economy. The Task Force for a Resilient Recovery will assess a variety of potential recovery investments, including The Resilient Recovery Framework developed by the Smart Prosperity Institute. The task force members include: Elizabeth Beale, former president/CEO, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council; Barbara Zvan, former chief risk and strategy officer, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan; Don Forgeron, president/CEO, Insurance Board of Canada; Bruce Lourie, president, Ivey Foundation; Gerald Butts, senior advisor, Eurasia Group; Helen Mountford, VP Climate & Economics, World Resources Institute; James Meadowcroft, Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration and Department of Political Science, Carleton University; JP Gladu, former president/CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business; Merran Smith, executive director, Clean Energy Canada; Michael Horgan, senior advisor, Bennett Jones; Mitchell Davidson, executive director, Strategy Corp Institute of Public Policy and Economy; Mira Oreck, executive director, The Houssain Foundation; Richard Florizone, president/CEO, International Institute for Sustainable Development; and Stewart Elgie, founder and chair, Smart Prosperity Institute. – Recovery Task Force

A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute explores the potential scope and scale of the Bio Revolution, a new wave of innovation that combines breakthroughs and declining costs in biological sciences with advances in computing, artificial intelligence, and automation. Some 400 use cases are cataloged and analyzed in a variety of sectors, including human health, agriculture and food, consumer products and services and materials and energy production. Many cases have been already deployed to aid in the response to COVID-19, allowing for faster identification of the virus, more effective diagnostics and health tech tools, and new bioengineered treatments. The report’s authors will present their findings at a May 21 webinar. – McKinsey

 

THE GRAPEVINE

Karimah Es Sabar has been appointed board chair of the Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet), a Network of Centres of Excellence. Es Sabar is currently CEO and Partner at Quark Venture LP. Previously, she held several leadership positions at the Centre for Drug Research and Development, including president and CEO. In 2018, she chaired Canada’s Health and Biosciences Economic Strategy Table. Frank Gleeson will remain on the board as past chair. – GlycoNet

Toronto artificial intelligence company, Internet of Things (ITT) Inc., has appointed a new management team. Darryl Smith, current chief technology officer of ITT, will take on the role of CTO of AI Labs Inc., the product development arm of ITT. Electronics engineer Malcolm Rook has been named chief innovation officer of AI Labs. Robert Klein, a 20-plus year operations and technology, telecom, and consumer packaged goods industry executive, has been named ITT Inc.’s chief operating officer and Thomas Park becomes VP, government relations and regulatory affairs at ITT. – ITT

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) have announced the head of the new multi-technology association that will provide a unified voice for solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage in Canada. Effective July 1, the members of CanSIA and CanWEA will unite within the Canadian Renewable Energy Association under the leadership of Robert Hornung, the long-standing president of CanWEA. From his base in Ottawa, Hornung will focus on stakeholder advocacy and public engagement. – Newswire 

Fred Deys, associate dean in Niagara College’s School of Technology, died May 9 at his home in Hamilton. Prior to joining Niagara College in 2017, he worked as a computer science professor at Mohawk College before becoming a director in human resources. – Niagara College

Dr. Fred Boyd, a former physicist and engineer at Atomic Energy of Canada, died May 10 at the age of 93. Boyd worked on the world’s first Cobalt 60 radiation therapy machines, before joining General Electric to help design Canada’s first Candu-type nuclear power plant. While at Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, he co-authored the first Canadian reactor safety requirements. Following his retirement in 1989, he became a private consultant where he continued to contribute to the development of Canadian nuclear policies. He was also publisher of the Bulletin of the Canadian Nuclear Society and a member of the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE). – Ottawa Citizen

 

The Short Report, May 13, 2020: Public trust in science rising; new COVID-19 advisory councils created; OneEleven ceases operations; and more

COVID-19 NEWS

Canadians’ trust in doctors, scientists and the government has increased since the cornovirus pandemic began, finds public opinion polls from January and repeated on May 1 and May 2. Conducted by Proof Strategies CanTrust Index of Ottawa, the survey found that 76% of Canadians trusted doctors and 70% trusted scientists. The follow up online survey of 1,000 people saw trust in doctors jump to 87%, compared to 82% for scientists. Trust in government also increased from 33% in January to 40% in May, while trust in the media plummeted to 33% in May compared to 44% in January. – RCInet and Proof Strategies

New federal advisory councils created

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced the creation of an Industry Strategy Council May 8 to assess the scope and depth of COVID-19’s impact across various sectors and to provide economic policy advice to relevant federal ministers. The council will be chaired by Monique Leroux, a veteran of Canadian finance whose recent experience includes president/CEO of Desjardin Group and chair of Investissement Québec. Members of the Council will be announced in the near future and will complement the structure and focus of the Economic Strategy Tables. – GoC

Another advisory group – the COVID-19 Supply Council – was announced May 3 by Public Services and Procurement minister Anita Anand. The group advise on the procurement of critical goods and services, and on building agile supply chains for critical medical supplies. Anand will chair the new council, which will be made up of 17 public and private sector members, including Digital Technology Supercluster CEO Sue Paish and Canadian Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Perrin Beatty. A full list of members can be found here. – GoC

Superclusters respond to crisis

Health Canada has approved the first artificial intelligence tool for radiology in the fight against COVID-19. The XrAI  (pronounced “X-ray”) machine learning tool, developed by Vancouver-based IQBit and its partners, acts as a “co-pilot” for clinicians to increase accuracy in identifying lung abnormalities associated with diseases such as COVID-19 infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. IQBit received funding from the Digital Technology Supercluster to accelerate the clinical deployment of XrAI. – IQBit

Montreal-based CargoM and the Montreal Port Authority have received $500,000 from the Scale AI supercluster to develop a tool for rapid distribution of essential cargo such as medical equipment and food supplies. Developed in collaboration with Montreal startup Ivado Labs, the tool optimizes the identification and prioritization of critical cargo arriving by container. The project is among the more than 120 projects that applied to Scale AI in just three weeks. – CargoM

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) has issued a call for proposals for its new Accelerated Ocean Solutions Program. The program will invest up to $35 million in short-term, small-scale projects that will help stimulate the economy during the current economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Project themes include: remote operations; digital/automated technologies; and environmental technologies. – OSC

The latest in Canadian COVID-19 research

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has teamed with CanSino Biologics Inc. (CanSinoBIO) to advance bioprocessing and clinical development in Canada of a potential vaccine against COVID-19. CanSinoBIO has applied to Health Canada for permission to conduct a clinical trial of Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate developed using proprietary HEK293 cell lines from the NRC. The NRC recently received federal funding to expand the capacity of its Human Health Therapeutics lab in Montreal to accelerate clinical trials and the eventual production of a vaccine and treatments. The trials would be conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Immunization Research Network at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology. – GoC

The NRC’s HEK293 cell lines are also being used in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to accelerate the development and production of a candidate COVID-19 antigen. Animal studies at VIDO-InterVac will help to determine the antigen’s effectiveness. The NRC will also explore the use of its HEK293 cells to develop a process to scale up production of the vaccine antigen for future pre-clinical and clinical studies. – GoC

VIDO-InterVac is also working with a Saskatoon medical cannabis firm to develop a plant-based vaccine for the coronavirus. A potential antigen for a COVID-19 vaccine identified by VIDO-InterVac will be isolated by ZYUS Life Sciences Inc. in its plant expression system. By mid-summer, ZYUS plans to have extracted enough specific protein for VIDO-InterVac to determine its effectiveness in animal models. – VIDO-InterVac

Two Lethbridge, AB companies, Pathway RX Inc. and Swysch Inc., and scientists at the University of Lethbridge have found that certain medical cannabis extracts show promise as an additional treatment for COVID-19. The study’s data suggests that some sativa cultivars can help reduce the severity and complications of COVID-19. A scientific paper on the findings is awaiting peer review and the team is planning further research as well as clinical trials. University of Lethbridge and Newswire

Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute have become the first in the world to treat a patient with COVID-19 using a modified dialysis device. In a clinical trial of up to 40 critically ill patients at London Health Sciences Centre, a modified version of a standard dialyzer will gently remove a patient’s blood, then modify white blood cells before returning them to the body to fight hyperinflammation caused by Covid-19. “The ultimate goal is to improve patient survival and lessen their dependency on oxygen and ventilation,” said lead researcher Dr. Chris McIntyre. – LHRI

An engineering team at the University of Toronto is manufacturing coronavirus proteins in hopes of accelerating COVID-19 research around the world. The 25 viral SARS-Cov-2 proteins are being made at the newly launched Toronto Open Access COVID-19 Protein Manufacturing Centre, which received support from the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund. Led Dr. Aled Edwards, director of the Structural Genomics Consortium, the centre will rapidly produce and distribute large quantities of the proteins at no cost. Milligram batches of viral proteins currently on the market for research sell for up to $10,000. “If you’re an academic researcher, or a small company in Canada or anywhere in the world, this is cost-prohibitive,” said lead researcher Dr. Peter Stogios. – U of T

The Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition is investing $1.5 million in 40 projects that will inform health system decisions, facilitate vaccine development, identify novel treatments, develop devices and influence social response to the pandemic. – Dalhousie University

An Edmonton-based aerospace company has pivoted quickly to develop a COVID-19 ventilator from non-medical parts. Space Engine Systems is using parts from the space, aerospace, oil, gas and automotive sectors to manufacture the ventilator. Potential partners in the US and UK are seeking medical approval for the devices and talks with regulatory authorities in Canada are proceeding. – SpaceQ

COVID-19 Research Resources

To ensure better coordination and to avoid unnecessarily duplication of research, the British Columbia Academic Health Science Network and its three operational units (BC SUPPORT Unit, Clinical Trials BC and Research Ethics BC) have created the COVID-19 Research Inventory of current COVID-19-related research projects underway in the province, including clinical trials. – BC AHSN

McMaster Health Forum and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have launched the COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making (COVID-END) portal to help decision-makers and researchers find evidence related to COVID-19. The network’s activities span the full range of COVID-19 issues, from infection prevention and control, to mental health and family violence, education, employment, financial protection, food safety and security, government services, housing, public safety and justice, recreation and transportation. – The Ottawa Hospital

IN OTHER NEWS

Google-backed Sidewalk Labs has abandoned its ambitious plans to turn Toronto’s industrial waterfront into a sensor-laden smart city. Led by Google subsidiary Alphabet and Waterfront Toronto, the $1.3-billion Quayside project had come under fierce criticism from privacy advocates. In a Globe and Mail op-ed published two years ago, Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Blackberry maker Research in Motion, called the project a “colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues”. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff blamed the abrupt decision on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying in a May 7 statement that: “As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed.” – Medium

The financial crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another victim – OneEleven. The Toronto-based business incubator, which is backed by OMERS Ventures, the Ontario Centres of Excellence and Ryerson University, said it is permanently ceasing operations. In a statement, OneEleven said: “As the particulars of a post-COVID world remain uncertain to all of us, there is also no doubt that a safe return to office environments will require changes to the way we work, and in particular the required de-densification of physical space will fundamentally threaten our business model.” – OneEleven and OCE

Two veteran investors have raised $7 million for a new venture firm, RiSC Capital. Scott Pelton, former general partner of Round 13 Capital, and Colin Webster, formerly of Hero Ventures, are aiming to raise $20 million for the fund, which is investing in early-stage Canadian tech companies. RiSC Capital’s first closure was led by Scott Lake, co-founder and former CEO of Shopfiy. – BetaKit

Genome Alberta is awarding $1.1 million to five projects under its Enabling Bioinformatics Solutions funding competition. Applicants were asked to submit proposals that would support the development of bioinformatic and computational approaches to help end users in the agriculture and human health sectors overcome limitations in understanding, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from genomic data being collected. Other funders in the competition include Genome Canada, the Government of Alberta and Alberta Innovates. – Genome Alberta

The BC Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Research Collaborative (MERC) has established a two-year plan to advance research on methane emissions from oil and gas activity. The research plan, a joint initiative of industry, government, the regulator and non-profits, will lead to recommendations on the design and implementation of key research deliverables necessary to meet methane reduction goals and to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of B.C.’s methane regulations. – Pembina Institute

Olds College has become the only post-secondary institution in the world to deploy the fully autonomous DOT Power Platform as a teaching and research tool on the college’s Smart Farm in Olds, AB. The equipment is part of a three-year Smart Farm research project to understand the benefits and challenges of autonomous agricultural equipment. The project will also measure the economic and environmental footprint of autonomous agricultural equipment. The college received of $1.9 million for the project from Western Economic Diversification Canada and private partners. – Olds College

Mind Medicine Inc. (MindMed), Toronto, has entered into a clinical trial agreement with Maastricht University in the Netherlands to undertake a Phase 2a clinical trial for lysergic acid diethylamide (“LSD”) in adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. MindMed previously established a microdosing division to develop a portfolio of clinical trials studying the use of sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelic substances for medical purposes. Clinical trials are scheduled to take place in the Netherlands by the end of the year. – Newswire

The University of Windsor and BlackBerry Limited, Waterloo, ON, have partnered to develop and deliver a cybersecurity curriculum for the university’s Graduate Master’s Program in Applied Computing. The curriculum, called BlackBerry Bootcamp, will be taught as part of a required Network Security course, and will cover a range of cybersecurity topics, including digital identity protection and privacy, software engineering, the latest techniques of cybercriminals, and advanced threat detection technologies. It will be delivered over 10 weeks as a remote earning program starting on May 18. – Newswire

THE GRAPEVINE

Dr. Jim Stanford is establishing a new office of the Centre for Future Work: a think tank to study how work is changing in the modern economy. The Canadian office, located in Vancouver, expands his work in Australia, where he founded the Centre for Future Work in 2016. Until 2016, Stanford was economist and policy director for Unifor (and formerly for the Canadian Auto Workers). He is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University. The centre’s Canadian office is being established in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. – Newswire

Robert Roscow will become chief science officer at NewLeaf Brands Inc., a cannabidiol (CBD) lifestyle firm based in Vancouver. Roscow previously served as director of research at Ebbu, a multi-platform cannabinoid research and technology firm based in Colorado. Prior to Ebbu’s $429-million acquisition by Canopy Growth, Smiths Falls, ON, his day-to-day operations included running the world’s first cannabis genomics editing lab and improving cannabinoid yields. Following Canopy’s acquisition of Ebbu, Roscow has focused on the medical mushroom space, co-founding Mydecine Group, which is in the process of being sold to NewLeaf. – Newswire

UQAM has appointed Christian Edem Kokou Agbobli as vice-rector for Research, Creation and Dissemination, effective July 13. Agbobli has been a professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication since 2006. From 2013 to 2014, he served as vice-dean for research and creation at the Faculty of Communication. He has also held the UNESCO Chair in communication and technologies for development since 2018. He succeeds Catherine Mounier who will continue her activities as a professor and researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences. – Uqam

Dr. Bernhard Mayer, head of the University of Calgary’s Department of Geoscience, has been appointed interim dean, Faculty of Science, effective June 1, 2020, a position he will hold until June 30, 2021. An internationally known isotope geochemist, Mayer was named department head of geoscience in 2016. He previously served as assistant scientific director of Carbon Management Canada Inc. (2009-2013). – University of Calgary

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