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Dr. Mark Redmond appointed to key BioAlliance role

Dr. Mark Redmond

The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance has announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Redmond as Director of Incubation Services with responsibility for the Emergence Incubator. Effective November 29, Mark will work to expand new ventures, support entrepreneurs and cultivate strong networks across the region and across Canada.

Mark has a broad range of expertise that will enable him to excel in this role. With a PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology, he has experience as a medical researcher, intellectual property manager, senior health system administrator, education leader and entrepreneur.

“I think one of my greatest strengths is as a systems thinker—someone who sees the opportunity behind issues and challenges,” said Mark Redmond. “I’m looking forward to working with our innovators and partners to help us achieve our respective goals and further grow the bio-economy in Atlantic Canada, seizing the opportunities for today and for our future.”

Born in Liverpool, England, Mark brings to our community a portfolio of technical experience ranging from human health and veterinary medicine to biochemicals, from botanical and marine sources to sensors and devices, and from remote application monitoring to manufacturing and systems’ simulation.

Mark developed his own research into global business success: launched more than 20 new, patent-protected products, including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices, in Canadian, American, European, Australian and Japanese markets. In recognition of this work, he received the Frost & Sullivan Product Innovation Award, the BioAlberta Entrepreneur of the Year title, and a nomination as Ernst & Young Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year.

To support talented entrepreneurs and enterprise, Mark co-founded The A100, a self-funding community of seasoned founders and executives who led technology companies. The A100 focuses on having the entrepreneur develop the full potential of the businessperson, not just the business.

Rory Francis, BioAlliance CEO said, “I am pleased to welcome Mark to Emergence’s BioIncubator. Mark’s impressive scientific background, private sector experience with startups, capital formation and IPOs, along with his experience in the academic world, will be very valuable to us and our partners as we continue our mission of incubating early stage bio-based companies across Atlantic Canada and growing the bioscience cluster. “

More 4-H youth to sample Island bioscience careers

[Left to right] Cheque presentation with Dr. Russ Kerr, Chair, PEI BioAlliance; Rayanne Frizzell, Administrative Director, 4-H PEI Provincial Council; and Blair Dunn, incoming Managing Director (PEI), Grant Thornton LLP.

The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance today announced a $5000 donation it has directed from the Grant Thornton Foundation to 4-H PEI.

The donation allows the PEI BioAlliance to continue and expand its BioFutures program that provides 4-H members, aged 15 to 21, with hands-on experiences spanning six areas of bioscience. Since 2018, 10 to 12 senior 4-H members annually have toured Island bioscience companies and research organizations and taken part in learning activities there.

The activities that the 4-H members undertake with bioscience professionals shed light on relevant career opportunities available in the province as well as the science and technology skills required to join the bioscience sector.

“Bioscience companies need skilled talent to grow, and BioFutures introduces 4-H students to the skills they need to grow along with those companies,” said Dr. Russ Kerr, Chair, PEI BioAlliance. “Thanks to the Grant Thornton Foundation, we can extend BioFutures to invest in giving more students a taste of the premium careers available right here at home on the Island.”

The PEI BioAlliance and 4-H PEI BioVectra are eager to have BioFutures reach senior 4-H members from across the province, including additional rural areas. Through BioFutures, 4-H leaders will also receive orientation to become more informed about PEI’s bioscience sector and potential scholarships available to 4-H youth.

“This donation will let us help even more senior 4-Hers to explore bioscience skills and opportunities on the Island through BioFutures,” said Rayanne Frizzell, Administrative Director, PEI 4-H Provincial Council. “We thank the staff at Grant Thornton and the PEI BioAlliance for their generosity.”

The Grant Thornton Foundation is a vehicle for the accounting and advisory firm to organize the collective volunteer and philanthropic efforts, and significant contributions of its people across Canada. The Foundation provides financial support for local, national and international causes that resonate with Grant Thornton employees.

“The saying that charity begins at home is indeed true of our employees who volunteer and fundraise here on PEI,” said Blair Dunn, incoming Managing Partner (PEI), Grant Thornton LLP. “We are proud to have the Grant Thornton Foundation make a difference locally through this donation to the 4-H community on PEI.”

Although the idea for BioFutures began as a partnership that the PEI BioAlliance established with 4-H PEI, the PEI BioAlliance is also open to exploring separate partnerships with not-for-profit organizations to introduce more Island students to BioFutures and the future prospects available in PEI’s bioscience sector.

Chamber names 3 bioscience finalists for 2019 President’s Excellence Awards

Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce President's Excellence Awards

Today, the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce announced the 2019 finalists for its 14th annual President’s Excellence Awards. Three of the award categories feature finalists from PEI’s bioscience sector:

  • Emerging Business Award finalists: Dosecann Cannabis Solutions, Reset Breathe Fitness, SableARC Studios
  • Workplace Excellence Award finalists: BioVectra, Invesco, RBC Dominion Securities
  • Not-for-profit Excellence Award finalists: PEI BioAlliance, Habitat for Humanity PEI, Tourism Industry Association of PEI

Other award categories include: Excellence in Customer Service, People’s Choice for Community Impact and Volunteer Excellence.

Finalists will be honoured during the Chamber’s upcoming awards ceremony on November 21, 2019, at the Delta Prince Edward.

Read more

Charlottetown Rural student selected for national program

Abby Chapman with classmates at a Shad Canada program at the University of British Columbia (photo from Shad UBC)

Every year, enterprising grade-10 and grade-11 students are chosen for spots in Shad Canada’s esteemed programs at 19 universities across the country. There, the students spend July taking part in labs, lectures, entrepreneurship-related activities and design challenges linked to solving social and economic issues through science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

Shad typically places students at a university outside their home province to ensure each student experiences campus life, different cultures, curiosity boosts and more. So, although UPEI is a Shad Canada campus, when Stratford’s Abby Chapman earned a Shad spot she found herself packing to spend a month at the University of British Columbia, before returning to Charlottetown Rural High School. Read more about Abby’s time at Shad UBC.

Premier King acknowledges Global Biotech Week

Dr. Russ Kerr and PEI's Premier King usher in Global Biotech Week 2019

Life-saving medicines, animal health products, green chemistry, renewable energy, feeding the planet: bioscience and biotechnology have established their place in addressing the big challenges of our society. Since 2003, Canada has celebrated that progress, and in recent years, Australia, Europe and the USA have joined Canada in Global Biotech Week.

Here in Prince Edward Island, the biotech sector has become an important pillar of the province’s growing economy, according to Premier Dennis King. “What excites me when I visit our bioscience companies is the number of young men and women in sophisticated and rewarding jobs, supporting families and growing our communities across PEI,” said King.

In the past decade, the sector has grown from very small beginnings to now include 58 businesses earning over $220 million in export sales and employing over 1800 people. In the past year alone, more than 200 new jobs were added.

Dr. Russ Kerr of Nautilus Croda, and Chair of the Board of the PEI BioAlliance, said that Prince Edward Island has established a national reputation as a province that has achieved very impressive growth in this science-rich business sector. He pointed to the high degree of collaboration and cooperation as a key to success, involving the business community, academic and research partners like UPEI, Holland College and NRC, as well as federal and provincial government agencies, in the innovation cluster. “We’ve seen the value of working together to implement priority initiatives and share risk and rewards,” said Kerr.

Sector growth has also created some pressures, particularly for additional skilled labour and for laboratory and manufacturing facilities to support new and growing businesses. Kerr said that he is very optimistic that initiatives currently under development by the partners will be able to address these challenges and lay the foundation for future growth.

BioVectra sold to H.I.G. Capital for $250 million

Pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt plc today announced that it has sold Charlottetown-based BioVectra to international private equity firm H.I.G. Capital for $250 million USD.

“We are very excited to enter into this new chapter with H.I.G. Capital!” said Oliver Technow, President, BioVectra, “Under H.I.G Capital’s stewardship we have a fantastic opportunity to continue building and growing our business right here in Atlantic Canada.”

BioVectra, one of North America’s leading pharmaceutical contract manufacturers, employs more than 350 Atlantic Canadians at its facilities in Charlottetown, PEI, and in Windsor, Nova Scotia. BioVectra manufactures specialty chemicals and active ingredients for some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biologics companies as well as early stage clients.

Rory Francis, CEO of the Prince Edward Island BioAlliance, said that this is good news for the company and for Atlantic Canada’s biotech sector. “BioVectra has been on an impressive growth trajectory, and this acquisition by H.I.G. Capital will provide confidence to BioVectra’s employees and clients that will be fundamental to its future success,” said Francis.

H.I.G. Capital’s acquisition is expected to open doors for BioVectra to continue its contract development and manufacturing growth path. Since 2015, BioVectra has averaged nearly $25 million in annual investments to grow its bioscience capabilities, its team and its technologies.

This past March, the company announced a new five-year, $145-million expansion to its facilities and plans to add 150 new employees across its Windsor and Charlottetown locations. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on hand to announce that expansion, which includes a $37.5-million contribution through the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund. In 2018, BIOTECanada named BioVectra Canada’s Biotech Company of the Year.

“We are pleased that this acquisition means business as usual for BioVectra and its dedicated employees as they deliver services and products to global biopharma companies from BioVectra’s base here in Atlantic Canada,” said Francis.

The transaction, outlined in a news release issued by all three parties, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to usual closing conditions.

MicroSintesis announces $16.4M investment

MicroSintesis CEO Hannah McIver with PEI BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis, during VetHealth Global 2019 at the PEI Convention Centre, Delta Prince Edward. Photo credit: Berni Wood

Hannah McIver, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Charlottetown-based MicroSintesis, announced Wednesday that her company has received a $16.4-million minority investment from Northern Private Capital, a Toronto firm backed by businessman John Risley.

She made the announcement at VetHealth Global 2019, a fitting venue given that MicroSintesis was identified and introduced as an emerging company four years ago during VetHealth Global 2015. With a focus on the health of companion animals, poultry and swine, MicroSintesis already has microbiome-targeted, gastrointestinal products with potential to be used in lieu of antibiotics.

Through R&D collaborations with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the University of Guelph, MicroSintesis has identified a set of proprietary assays to study the impact of natural metabolites on the microbiome. The company has amassed a library of more than 50 probiotic strains producing specific metabolites known as postbiotics. These metabolites have been tested against 14 types of pathogens known to cause illness in animals and humans. MicroSintesis has harnessed the natural communication systems found within the microbiome allowing postbiotics to interrupt those communications and let bacteria pass right through, thereby improving animal health and wellness.

“As we understand more about the metabolites produced by the microbiome, we see the potential for the development of a new wave of clinically effective health products to treat or prevent big diseases,” said Hannah McIver. “These products will likely range all the way from supplements, through to a new class of microbiome drugs. The more our understanding of the role of the microbiome in health matures, the more potential we’ll unlock.”

Underpinning the company’s technology is the biomanufacturing system, developed by working with BIOFOODTECH, to create a safe and cost-effective way for MicroSintesis to deliver these products to animals, and eventually to humans. The MicroSintesis R&D facility is co-located with NRC in the Regis & Joan Duffy Research Centre at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

“MicroSintesis reinforces the importance and uniqueness of animal health research and products arising from PEI’s bioscience cluster,” said Rory Francis, Executive Director of the PEI BioAlliance. “Congratulations to Hannah, her MicroSintesis team and all the collaborators and stakeholders who have contributed to the company’s attaining this important financing milestone.”

“PEI became our company’s foundation. This is a PEI success story and we are really excited for the future,” said Hannah McIver. “In the next 24 months, our team will work to expand our existing products for Canada out to global markets, continue to research how to apply our technology beyond gut health to reduce industry reliance on antibiotics, and establish a scaled-up production facility to identify and manufacture MicroSintesis postbiotic metabolites.”

McIver recognized the importance of early involvement of programs from the governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), and Innovation PEI.


Read more about the investment.

International Vet Health Businesses Converge in Charlottetown

VetHealth Global 2019 logo

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (June 24, 2019) – For the next three days, industry leaders in veterinary health and nutrition will meet in Charlottetown for the seventh biennial VetHealth Global™, North America’s foremost business conference for this industry.

More than 200 global animal health businesses, executives from new and emerging companies, regulators and investors will meet at the PEI Convention Centre in the Delta Prince Edward Hotel to discuss current trends, challenges and future opportunities related to the health and nutrition of companion and food animals.

The Honourary Chair of VetHealth Global 2019 is Jeff Simmons, President and CEO of Elanco Animal Health. He is no stranger to innovation in this space given that he heads up a company that for more than 65 years has developed novel products for improving animal health and production of food animals. Although Elanco runs its business in more than 90 countries worldwide, its global team for fish health product development and manufacturing operates from facilities in Victoria and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, respectively, employing upwards of 160 people.

In addition to a keynote presentation from Mr. Simmons, attendees will hear from other top-level presenters during panel sessions and talks that support the “Insight, Foresight, Leadership” theme of VetHealth Global. The program also affords attendees opportunities to witness demonstrations of industry technologies, interact during one-on-one partnering meetings, and tour scientific and technical facilities in Prince Edward Island, such as the Atlantic Veterinary College, the School of Sustainable Design Engineering and the National Research Council of Canada.

Twelve emerging companies will be showcased during VetHealth Global’s Innovation Spotlight Series including: Adivo, Germany; Because Animals, USA; Biomatcan, Canada; CanBiocin, Canada; Cytophage Technologies, Canada; eQcell, Canada; Herdsy, UK; NewMetrica, UK; Sidanis Pharma, Germany; test&treat, UK; Torigen Pharmaceuticals, USA; and Vetco, Taiwan.

“International vet health businesses have come to rely on VetHealth Global as an event where productive relationships are formed and businesses advance. And it’s fitting to gather in PEI since our bioscience cluster has an expanding base of animal health and nutrition businesses and support services that are unique within Canada,” said Rory Francis, Chair of VetHealth Global and Executive Director of the PEI BioAlliance.

VetHealth Global 2019 is hosted by the Prince Edward Island BioAlliance, in collaboration with the Government of Canada and Innovation PEI, and through support from industry sponsors. Details about the VetHealth Global 2019 conference program and speakers are available by visiting:

PEI BioAlliance hosts 15th Annual General Meeting

During its 2019 Annual General Meeting yesterday, the Prince Edward Island BioAlliance confirmed new and returning executives and members of its Board of Directors. This Annual General Meeting (AGM), held at the Delta Prince Edward on June 12, 2019, marked the 15th AGM for the PEI BioAlliance.

While there were no changes to the slate of directors, the PEI BioAlliance welcomed Dr. Debbie Plouffe and Oliver Technow, as Treasurer and Secretary respectively, to the Executive of the Board of Directors.

“Both Debbie and Oliver further add to the wealth of industry experience within our Board’s executive,” said Russ Kerr, Chair, PEI BioAlliance. “We look forward to having their assistance in advancing implementation of our strategic plan and continuing to shape and enhance PEI’s bioscience cluster.”

The PEI BioAlliance’s Executive of the Board now includes:

  • Chair – Russ Kerr, Research Fellow, Nautilus Biosciences CRODA
  • Vice Chair – Brian Stewart, P. Eng., General Manager, Elanco PEI
  • Treasurer – Debbie Plouffe, Vice President, Research, Center for Aquaculture Technologies Canada
  • Secretary – Oliver Technow, President, BioVectra, Inc.
  • Past Chair – Ron Keefe, President, Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund Inc.

Additionally, 10 voting, ex officio and non-voting members of the Board of Directors were re-confirmed: Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz (President, The University of Prince Edward Island); Ron Atkinson (Economic Development Officer, City of Charlottetown); Patrick Dorsey (Vice President, ACOA PEI and Tourism); Mark Grimmett (Associate Director, RDT, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada); Steve Howatt (President and General Manager, Atlantic AgriTech Inc.); Denise LeBlanc (Director General, Aquatic and Crop Resource Development, National Research Council Canada); Erin McGrath-Gaudet (Deputy Minister, Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, Government of PEI); Dr. Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald (President, Holland College); Professor Barry Stickings (Independent); and Melanie Wildman (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Nutracelle).

The Board’s agenda included discussions of priority initiatives to address a serious shortage of incubation and manufacturing space as well as a skills development and training proposal to ensure a pipeline of talent to fill new job opportunities being created. The Board was informed that over 200 new full-time, high-paying positions were created in the past year.

After conducting the business of its AGM, the PEI BioAlliance membership was invited to kick off summer during a social, held at nearby Brackish! on the Charlottetown waterfront. There, more than 150 individuals from across the Island’s bioscience community took time away from labs and offices to socialize and network, sharing news of technology advances, partnerships, hiring, priorities, upcoming opportunities and more.

Island students land award-winning finishes that showcase bioscience smarts

Picture Left to right: Medal winners Abby Chapman, Christianne Riveroll, Joe Moak, Davis Nicholson and Jannah McCallum at the 2019 Canada-Wide Science Fair (credit: photo from Lise Deveau)

At recent national and regional competitions, Island students were rewarded for their science innovations. Apart from ranking among the top finishers, the students also received either medals, cash prizes or entrance scholarships for Canadian universities.

Island teen places second in Atlantic Canada’s BioGENius competition

At Dalhousie University, teenagers from across Atlantic Canada gathered for the regional edition of the Sanofi BioGENius competition. On April 16, 2019, Islander Abby Chapman (grade 10, Charlottetown Rural High School) earned a second-place finish for her bioscience project.

Abby investigated how fermentation temperatures affected bacteria drawn from marine sources. She studied seven bacteria that were isolated from cold and warm waters, and she found that five had potential to become natural products. Her mentors were Anna Kuznetsova and Vernon Cole Ptycia-Lamky from Dr. Russ Kerr’s laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island.

PEI’s best showing at Canada’s national science fair

For 2019, PEI sent five students from four schools to the Canada-Wide Science Fair, and each of the five students returned with medals, a record-setting medal count for PEI.

Held May 11 to 17, this year marked the 58th edition of the Canada-Wide Science Fair. The University of New Brunswick campus in Fredericton hosted all 500 students who participated. The students came from every province and territory to represent their schools and regions at the national fair.

In the Junior category, Jannah McCallum (grade 7, Queen Charlotte Intermediate School) won a silver and a $2,000 entrance scholarship for her project Weeding Out the Alternatives: Is Cinnamon a Herbicide? in which she tested the spice on carrots, which are related to weeds like Giant Hogweed and Cow Parsnip.

For their joint project called Ready, Set, Grow: A Guide to Better Microgreens, Davis Nicholson and Joe Moak (grade 8, Gulf Shore Consolidated School) shared a silver medal win and earned a $2,000 entrance scholarship. Davis and Joe pretreated seeds and applied statistical analysis to predict better germination rates for microgreens.

In the Intermediate category, PEI gained two bronze medals and $1,000 entrance scholarships for each of the medalists. First, by measuring the electrical flow of fingertips, Christianne Riveroll (grade 9, Grace Christian School) assessed how colours affect moods for her project called The Psychology of Colour.

The second Intermediate bronze medalist was Abby Chapman as she once again presented her project called Temperature-dependent Approach Enhance Drug Discovery from Bacteria, but this time at the national level.

With their strong showing of bioscience smarts, these five students have set a positive example for their classmates. Perhaps by 2020, PEI will have students compete in all three age categories: Junior, Intermediate and Senior.

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