The Short Report - November 24, 2021: BioVectra funding spurs expansion for mRNA vaccine development, UNESCO adopts the Open Science Recommendation, NSERC awards annual research prizes, and more

Cindy Graham
November 24, 2021


Charlottetown-based pharmaceutical manufacturer BioVectra will expand its facility to specialize in the production and manufacturing of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics. BioVectra will also be expanding its Windsor, Nova Scotia site to develop and produce plasmid DNA, the key ingredient to manufacture mRNA therapeutics and vaccines. The expansions are the result of a joint private-public investment made by BioVectra and the federal and PEI governments, who are contributing $39.8 million and $10 million respectively to the total project cost of $79.6 million. - BioVectra

The University of New Brunswick has opened a research facility focused on advanced prosthetics and rehabilitation. The Centre for Adaptive Rehabilitation Engineering will enable researchers to use state-of-the-art technology in several specialized labs, including a computer-assisted rehabilitation environment. The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the provincial government, through the Regional Development Corporation, have contributed $2.28 million each toward the project. Additional contributions were received through a private donation, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation. - Government of New Brunswick

The Pan-Canadian Palliative Care Research Collaborative has received $2.5 million from Health Canada to advance palliative care for patients and caregivers. The funding will support 14 projects across the country that focus on advancing palliative care initiatives from new therapies to new models of care delivery. - PCPCRC


The governments of Canada and Manitoba are investing $2.2 million in three agricultural research projects that will use artificial intelligence, computer vision, behavioural research, and precision feeding to generate a database of animal health and welfare data. Topigs Norsvin Canada will conduct the projects at its new R&D facility in Plumas, Manitoba; funding is provided by the Ag Action Manitoba Program – Research and Innovation, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. - GoC

Halifax-based Ashored is leading a project to develop and commercialize ropeless or rope-on-command (ROC) fishing solutions to address and reduce vertical line entanglements, which account for 85 percent of right whale deaths, as well as plastic pollution and ghost fishing caused by abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear. Industry partners are contributing $750,000 towards the project while Canada's Ocean Supercluster is contributing $650,000 for a project total of $1.4 million. - Ocean Supercluster

Ericsson Canada and researchers and graduate students from Concordia University’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science and Faculty of Arts and Science are teaming up to expand on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology skills through Ericsson’s Global Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (GAIA), a program that consists of lectures and project clinics covering big data, programming, machine learning, deep learning and infrastructure. - Concordia

The Business + Higher Education Roundtable, a not-for-profit driving collaboration between business and post-secondary education sectors, has launched a work-integrated learning (WIL) hub that allows employers to explore, invest in and create WIL opportunities for post-secondary students. The hub is supported by the Government of Canada through the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, with a goal to create 44,000 WIL opportunities for students by 2020-2021. - BHER

Concordia University-based postdoc venture program V1 Studio, which supports PhDs as they move from the lab into entrepreneurship, is now accepting applications for its spring, 2022 cohort. The deadline to apply is December 2. - Concordia


Vancouver-based Variational AI, a company that uses state-of-the-art machine learning to generate novel drug discoveries, has raised more than $4 million in seed money to accelerate existing discovery programs for COVID-19, cancer and other disease areas. The funding round was led by Flying Fish Ventures (Seattle), Alliance of Angels (Seattle) and A&E Investments (San Francisco), with participation from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investors and advisors Lip-Bu Tan and Amarjit Gill. - Variational AI

Moment Energy (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) has closed a $3.5 million seed round to commercialize energy storage systems from second life electric vehicle batteries. The investment round was led by Version One Ventures (Vancouver) with participation from Fika Ventures (Los Angeles), Garage Capital (Kitchener) and MCJ Collective (Boston). - Moment Energy


Progressive Planet Solutions (Vancouver) is launching a 1,600-square-foot R&D innovation division in Calgary that will focus on sustainable cement development. The facility will accelerate IP generation and the optimization and commercial development of eco-friendly products for the cement, concrete and building materials industries. - Progressive Planet

Alberta Innovates and the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) have selected 12 projects to participate in Phase II of the Carbon Fibre Grand Challenge (CFGC), a $15-million three-phase competition to accelerate the development of carbon fibre from bitumen. Participating teams will share $5.27 million as they develop processes to scale up and improve the quality of carbon fibre manufactured from Alberta bitumen. - Project Awardees


Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the White House Office of Science and Technology have issued a joint statement regarding U.S.- Canada collaborations on science, technology and innovation (STI) following trilateral talks in Washington, D.C. The talks centred on shared priorities and cooperation in artificial intelligence (AI) and next-generation semiconductor technologies, among other emerging science issues. - GoC

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s Science Commission has adopted the Open Science Recommendation proposed at the general conference in 2019 as an international standard-setting instrument on open science and following a survey of International Science Council members that contributed to an ISC discussion paper on open science for the 21st century. The recommendation is expected to define shared values and principles for open science and identify measures to take on open access and open data through consultation. - International Science Council

The Government of Canada and the European Commission have released findings and recommendations from workshops exploring the current policy landscapes of digital credentials. Ottawa says both Canada and the EC, along with an expanded group of countries, will address the recommendations set out in the report and will collaborate on digital credentials research and innovation. - GoC


Dr. Sajeev John and Dr. Hanadi Sleiman received Canada's highest awards in science and engineering from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada this year. John, a theoretical physics professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto, is the recipient of the 2021 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, worth up to $1 million of funding over five years, for developing a way to trap light while Sleiman has been awarded the $250,000 John C. Polanyi Award, for discovery and contributions to the field of DNA nanotechnology. NSERC's other major awards and recipients include the following: the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering - Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research; the Synergy Awards for Innovation - Dr. Yu Sun (University of Toronto); Dr. Bonnie Mallard (University of Guelph); Dr. Ludvik Martinu and Dr. Jolanta E. Klemberg-Sapieha (Polytechnique Montréal); Dr. Edward Sykes (Sheridan College); the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships - Dr. Natalie Ban (University of Victoria); Dr. Emily Cranston (University of British Columbia); Dr. Jessica Grahn (University of Western Ontario);  Dr. Martin Krkosek (University of Toronto); Dr. Sandra Rehan (York University), and Dr. Alfred Yu (University of Waterloo) - NSERC Winners and profiles

Dr. Chad Gaffield has been appointed the new executive director of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, effective April 15, 2022. He will succeed Dr. Gilles Patry, who has been serving as executive director since 2017. Gaffield is a professor of history emeritus at the University of Ottawa and holds the university research chair in digital scholarship. He served as president of the Royal Society of Canada from 2017 to 2019 and president and CEO of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 2006 to 2014.- U15

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