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Celebrating women-led bioscience companies

Emergence survey indicates 45% of founders and CEOs in the bioscience incubator are female

With only 16% of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses owned by women, there is still much work to do in all sectors to support the full and equal participation of women in the economy. As an Atlantic bio-business accelerator, Emergence is committed to advancing gender equity and supporting the establishment and success of women-led bioscience companies.

According to the 2019 Emergence Company Survey, 45% of the 46 companies who responded had women founders and/or CEOs.

“We are delighted in the independent survey results that demonstrate the significant role that women entrepreneurs play in driving innovation in Atlantic Canada,” said Mark Redmond, Director of Incubation Services, Emergence. “As we review the Emergence portfolio of more than 60 companies, we see the notable presence of women in advancing initiatives with an emphasis on human and animal health and nutrition.”

The innovative work of these Emergence companies, alongside their solid leadership, is critical in growing and strengthening the bioscience sector – a key pillar of the Atlantic economy. There are many examples of women-led bioscience companies making waves in the industry to celebrate.

For example, BioTraceIT™ President, CEO and co-founder Deborah Dullen has a background in both the biotech and medical device fields with additional expertise in business development, sales, R&D, and global market entry. Her company, BioTraceIT™ recently launched PainTrace® a platform for detecting and monitoring pain in people and animals.

Chinova Bioworks is transforming the food and beverage industry with a natural, clean-label shelf-life extender extracted from white button mushrooms. Their CEO and co-founder Natasha Dhayagude has a background in biochemistry and a passion for entrepreneurship, delivering on Chinova’s mission to not only deliver clean-label ingredients, but also reduce food waste.

Because Animals CEO and co-founder Shannon Falconer has a PhD in microbial chemical biology and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. While Because Animals may be a small company at this stage, it has a big mission: to create nutritious, sustainable, animal-free pet food using cultured meat.

These are only a few examples of the many women-led companies in Emergence including high-performers such as Nutracelle, MicroSintesis, BioSpa, StepScan, CNS-CRO, Au Naturel Solutions, SeaFord Pharmaceuticals, SomaDetect, VetNOW, Dr. AK Gordon, and more.

For CEO of BioTraceIT™ Deborah Dullen, she credits her family’s support to dream big and the importance of passing on this encouragement to others.

“Worldwide women represent nearly 30% of researchers and in the US, women hold 31% of senior business roles,” she said. “We must thank all these individuals who are trailblazers; we are standing on the shoulders of giants.”

For more information on Emergence, visit

A Story to Hear: The Center for Aquaculture Technologies

Last week, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster featured The Center for Aquaculture Technologies as part of their #StorytoTell series. In this video, CAT discusses the opportunity to revolutionize aquaculture through innovation, the value rural communities have in growing Canada’s ocean economy, and why they chose to become a part of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster.

CASTL supports life sciences students and industry growth with Financial Award program

32 recipients from Acadia, Université de Moncton and UPEI to each receive $5,000 scholarships

Charlottetown, PE – The Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL) announced today Financial Awards of $5,000 for 32 post-secondary students across Atlantic Canada to support their academic studies in life sciences. This Financial Award program will support life sciences students enrolled in co-operative education from Acadia University, Université de Moncton and the University of Prince Edward Island, who will each receive scholarships in their second and third years. 

“We are thrilled to be able to support students pursuing an education in life sciences through this newly launched Financial Award program,” said Christopher Gillis, Executive Director, CASTL. “Life sciences continues to be an area of high demand, and students involved with CASTL will have the opportunity to combine their academic theory with hands-on skill development, preparing them to kickstart a career in life sciences, with a competitive edge.” 

Christopher Gillis, Executive Director, CASTL

Launched this fall, the CASTL Financial Award program is supported by the Government of Canada, the Future Skills Centre, and the Government of Prince Edward Island. 

From COVID 19 vaccines and diagnostics, to understanding climate change and feeding the world sustainably, life sciences is a key pillar of our economy. CASTL combines life sciences academic theory with hands-on skills development to build capacity for real-world performance. CASTL delivers on the economic and sectoral demand for individuals who are work-ready to enter, thrive and meet the needs of the Canadian bioscience industry.  

CASTL is a first-of-its-kind partnership between academia, industry, and government to address the future skills needs of the Canadian life sciences sector. Founding partners include: PEI BioAlliance, Acadia University, Holland College, Université de Moncton, University of Prince Edward Island, Collège communautaire du Nouveau-BrunswickBioTalent Canada, the National Research Council, and BioVectra. 


“We are delighted to award the inaugural CASTL Financial Awards to 15 Acadia students who will be engaging in work-integrated learning experiences in the life sciences. This exciting new initiative has the overall vision of training and educating the next generation of highly skilled bioscience professionals who will grow bioscience in the Maritimes and across Canada. The goal of the program is to marry the richness of a traditional liberal education in pure and applied science with industry-specific, applied science attributes. Students will graduate with significant work-integrated-learning and professional experience as well as a firm grounding in fundamental science, ready for a career in the life sciences sector.” – Suzie Currie, Dean of Pure and Applied Science, Acadia University 

Université de Moncton is extremely pleased to partner with the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences in its efforts to support our students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities in the cutting-edge field of biosciences. The funding provided will not only allow students to gain practical work experience, but it also addresses an urgent need in the Canadian biosciences sector. The program thereby contributes to economic growth in the region, which benefits everyone.”  Pandurang Ashrit, Dean of Science, Université de Moncton 

We are delighted that a number of our students have been awarded these scholarships, which will offer support and recognition as they continue their studies in the life sciences. UPEI has a dynamic and flourishing co-op program that offers students, in a wide range of disciplines, the opportunity to gain real-life, relevant work experience. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to work with the CASTL team to ensure that our students have enhanced access to these valuable training opportunities.” – Nola Etkin, Dean of Science, University of Prince Edward Island. 

For more information on CASTL, visit 

Media Contact
Clara Deacon
Director of Communications and Marketing
PEI BioAlliance
C: 403.701.2815

Sekisui Diagnostics PEI named as one of Canada’s Top Employers 2021

Congratulations to PEI’s Sekisui Diagnostics, LLC for once again being named as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2021. A great example of a place to work and grow a career in the bioscience sector on the Island.

Sekisui Diagnostics is a global leading manufacturer and developer of in-vitro diagnostics products, focused on bringing general and specialty clinical chemistry reagents to diagnostics manufacturers and clinical laboratories worldwide, with a location in Charlottetown, PE.

Here are some of the reasons why the PEI office was selected as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers (2021) and Atlantic Canada’s Top Employers (2020):

  • Sekisui Diagnostics offers three weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving employees to four weeks after only four years on the job — employees may also take advantage of flexible work hours and a telecommuting option to help balance personal and professional commitments
  • Sekisui Diagnostics encourages employees to recruit their friends with generous new employee referral bonuses (up to $1,250) and conducts annual benchmarking for each position to ensure competitive compensation rates for existing employees
  • Sekisui Diagnostics invests in ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for job-related courses (up to $5,250 per year), subsidies for professional accreditation, and a variety of in-house and online training programs

Read the full article on Canada’s Top Employers 2021.

Adopting practices to improve equity: The 50 – 30 Challenge

Material republished from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The 50 – 30 Challenge is an initiative between the Government of Canada, business, and diversity organizations. Together with project co-creators, many of whom have been striving to increase corporate diversity for decades, the government is shaping a plan to improve access for racialized persons, people who identify as LGBTQ2, people living with disabilities, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis to positions of influence and leadership on corporate boards and in senior management.

The goal of the program is to challenge Canadian corporations to increase the representation and inclusion of diverse groups within their workplace, while highlighting the benefits of giving all Canadians a seat at the table. The government has always believed in seeking the best available advice when making decisions. The 50 – 30 Challenge will be developed with the help of decades of expertise from both private sector and advocacy partners and will offer a variety of tools and resources to support participating companies in achieving real results.

The challenge is rooted in two aspirations – gender parity and significant representation of under-represented groups.

  • Gender parity (“50%”) on Board(s) and senior management, and;
  • Significant representation (“30%”) on Board(s) and senior management of other under-represented groups, including racialized persons, people living with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ2 community. Participants will also be invited to recognize First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples’ as founding peoples

Company participation will help illustrate the collaborative nature of this approach as those involved work in partnership to design a meaningful challenge. Diversity in the workplace makes good business sense. Companies that are more diverse:

  • are more likely to outperform their peers
  • are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes
  • generate and foster fresh insights, new ideas and creative solutions
  • draw on the full talents of their organizations and people

How to get involved?

Companies, not-for-profits and other organizations that are interested in the 50 – 30 Challenge can sign-up by filling in the 50-30 Challenge form.

Learn more on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

CAT officially opens third facility in Victoria

The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT) officially opened their third facility in Victoria. With the acquisition of this state-of-the-art facility, they are now the largest aquaculture CRO in the world.

Read more about this recent announcement from CAT.

Victoria, PE (October 15, 2020) The newest location for the Center for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT) is officially open for business.

The state-of-the-art facility, located in Victoria, PE, was acquired by CAT in early 2020 and became the third location for the company, tripling its Canadian footprint and expanding the already best-in-class research services in Health and Nutrition.

Since occupying the building in the spring of 2020, CAT has hired an additional nine staff members to prepare, outfit, and operate the 46,000 square feet of aquatic, dry lab, and office space. The first health trials began at the end of September, marking an exciting achievement for the CAT team, who now oversee the largest amount of privately held AQC3/BSL 3 certified square footage in the world. The Aquatic Animal Pathogen Containment Level 3 (AQC3), also known as the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL 3) certification allows CAT to conduct in vivo and in vitro studies with both domestic and imported aquatic animals and pathogens. The high-level designation coupled with the extensive expertise of the staff enables development of new technologies for the aquaculture industry on a global scale.

VP of Health and Nutrition and General Manager, Canadian Operations, Jason Cleaversmith commented on the significance of opening the new location. “The acquisition of the Victoria, PE facility, supported by substantial investments in wet lab infrastructure and the recruitment of a world class team to deliver clinical trials, underpin our intention for CAT to be the ‘go to’ company for aquaculture related contract research services. Launching our first trials is an important milestone and signifies to the world that we are open and ready for business”.

The Victoria site operates in addition to the CAT research aquarium and labs in Souris, PEI and San Diego, California.

Three innovative companies latest to join Emergence

Emergence is pleased to welcome three new companies to Canada’s Bioscience Business Incubator: Pegasus Biotech Inc.Au Naturel Solutions and SynerTek.

As part of Emergence, they are joining a cohort of 59 clients currently in the program who have access to business incubation services including the Critical Path mentorship program, business strategy and advisory services, as well as access to networks and resources.

Read more about these innovative companies:

Human and animal health vaccine and biotherapeutic developer Pegasus Biotech

Founded in 2019, Pegasus Biotech is an agile biotech company based in Charlottetown, PEI that focuses on providing high quality vaccine and biotherapeutic development services to the human and animal health sector. They are also developing accurate and reliable analytical testing methods for the human and animal health industry. Read more

Forestry-derived products company SynerTek

Nova Scotia-based SynerTek delivers products using wood biomass, both from residual waste left behind from forestry operations and from the responsible harvesting of mature trees. SynerTek’s value-capturing processes will also offer significant efficiency improvements in the agriculture, livestock, and materials industries. Their transformative manufacturing platform produces a diversity of high-value products: RenuDiesel, Wood Vinegar, BioChar and Graphene. Read more

All-natural breast prosthesis manufacturer Au Naturel Solutions

For breast cancer survivor Simonne Cormier, her road to recovery led to an innovative idea that would have a lasting impact. In 2019, Simonne founded Au Naturel Solutions in PEI, a company specializing in the manufacturing of an all-natural breast prosthesis with an attachment system. In contrast to the existing synthetic polyester or silicone options, Au Naturel’s product is made from animal and plant-based fibers. Read More

Share your feedback: PEI Economic Action Plan 2021-2026

The PEI BioAlliance is a founding member of Partnership for Growth, a private sector-led initiative to map a path forward for the province’s economy over the next 3-5 years. Although work on the action plan was delayed by the pandemic, Partnership for Growth has now released a draft of the PEI Economic Action Plan 2021-2026 for public review and feedback.

Bioscience companies and community members are encouraged to take this opportunity to consider the goals, priority areas, and actions recommended in the Partnership for Growth plan, and provide your feedback by November 2, 2020.

Read the full news release from Partnership for Growth.
Complete the short survey.
Read the PEI Economic Action Plan 2021-2016


Growing leadership in Canada’s bioscience sector

What may come as a surprise to some, Canada’s smallest province has established a unique and favourable business environment for a thriving bioscience industry. Prince Edward Island turns its size to competitive advantage with an effective and collaborative partnership between government, academia and industry, that over the past decade has grown the sector to become the second largest industry in the province.

Read full feature in BIOTECanada’s Insights Magazine on page 36.


Comfort builds confidence with Au Naturel Solutions

For breast cancer survivor Simonne Cormier, her road to recovery led to an innovative idea that would have a lasting impact.

Diagnosed suddenly in 2016, she faced two significant challenges relating to her post-treatment circumstance: finding a breast prothesis made from natural materials and finding an appropriate means of attaching and securing the prothesis.

“After having had surgery, chemo and radiation, it was recommended to find a breast prosthesis that was made from all-natural materials, as your sensitive skin is breathing whatever material it is in contact with,” she said. “I searched specialty stores far and wide across Canada and the online marketplace. Unfortunately for me and any other patients, that product did not exist.”

That is, until now. In 2019, Simonne founded Au Naturel Solutions, a company specializing in the manufacturing of an all-natural breast prosthesis with an attachment system. In contrast to the existing synthetic polyester or silicone options, Au Naturel’s product is made from animal and plant-based fibers.

“Part of the problem with existing products, was the need to constantly adjust and re-adjust throughout the day. With the innovative attaching system, the prosthesis remains securely in place and the prosthesis itself can be adapted to fit the negative space from surgery, making it easier to align the shape and size of the other breast.”

Au Naturel Solutions is the latest company to join Emergence, Canada’s Bioscience Business Incubator run by the PEI BioAlliance, and serving 58 client companies in the Atlantic Region and across Canada. Simonne also received a $25,000 grant in 2019 from Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund and is an active member of the Startup Zone.

“Emergence is working with Simonne to put the product into full production in 2021 and to develop a sales and marketing plan to make the product available across Canada, and wherever there is a need,” said Mark Redmond, Director, Incubation Services for Emergence.

Simonne’s innovative product includes a prosthesis comprised of a molded breast form with fiber fill to be placed within a bra cup to correct asymmetry, as well as an innovative system to keep the prosthesis securely in place. The all-natural materials were selected for their hypoallergenic and biodegradable properties, breathability, moisture wicking and durability.

“I chose this route to give others the option of an all-natural alternative, if that’s what they want. This exercise is about making people feel good, being comfortable and building confidence in themselves,” she said.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to education and making a difference in the lives of those affected by the disease. With more than 26,000 Canadians diagnosed every year, it is the most common form of cancer.

“Imagine going through surgery, not knowing to what extent the removal of tissue will be. This happens to many individuals undergoing surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis. I want to give back to that community and aid in the healing of individuals who need a prosthesis for whatever reason.”

For more information on Au Naturel Solutions, contact Simonne at

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