Province Announces Support for Manitobans Engaged In Leading-edge, International Research
Premier Gary Doer is promoting Manitoba as a major hub of knowledge, research and innovation at the 2009 BIO International Conference, where he is leading a delegation that includes more than 30 leaders from the province’s life-sciences industry, research and post-secondary education sectors.
Manitoba has had one of Canada’s fastest-growing life-sciences industries in recent years, Doer noted, and the province’s position as a hub for the knowledge economy has been recognized internationally by companies like California’s Amgen, which awarded $250,000 for research-based activities in Manitoba at BIO 2008.
“The work done by the life-sciences and biotechnology industry is not only critical to finding solutions to some of our greatest challenges, it is essential to our continued economic growth,” Doer said. “Knowledge and innovation attracts private-sector investment, creates highly skilled jobs and builds the economy of tomorrow.”
There are over 40 private-sector companies operating within Manitoba’s life-sciences industry, employing over 2,300 people in the knowledge economy. Leading private firms include Cangene, Canada’s largest biotechnology company, Smith Carter Architects, builder of most of the world’s level 4 labs, Biovail, a specialty pharmaceutical company with its manufacturing facility in Steinbach, as well as Apotex, Vita Health, Imris and Monteris.
There are also 30 research and development facilities employing over 1,900 people. These institutions include the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health (Canada’s equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta), the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, the National Research Council’s Institute for Biodiagnostics, the St Boniface Research Centre, the Siemens Institute at the Health Sciences Centre and the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology.
Recent support for the industry was contained in Budget 2009, which announced the Manitoba Research and Development Tax Credit will be made refundable for corporations that work on new technologies with research institutes in Manitoba. At 20 per cent, Manitoba has the highest research and development tax credit in the country.
The newly formed Manitoba Innovation Council, co-chaired by Dr. Albert Friesen and Dr. Joanne Kesselman is also beginning its work to build closer relationships between the business, research and investment communities.
During BIO 2009, Doer met with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement, Quebec Premier Jean Charest as well as business and other political leaders from Australia, the United States and Canada.
Doer also announced during one of his speeches that the province is supporting Manitoba researchers by investing more than $750,000 in four projects that range from improving the quality of biofuels to fighting diseases like diabetes and HIV. He noted that Manitoba researchers are internationally recognized for their contributions to biotechnology and research collaboration.
“It is important to think beyond our borders and work globally in the areas of science and technology,” Doer said. “This announcement builds on government’s long-term commitment to promote Manitoba’s internationally renowned research sector and support the work of Manitoba talent.”
The projects include $315,000 to create more sustainable biofuels, $280,000 to develop a blend of omega-3 fatty acids for poultry meat and eggs, $100,000 to better understand the interaction between particular proteins and inhibitory receptors and their effect on destroying HIV-infected cells, and $55,000 to develop novel food products that will help reduce Type 2 diabetes.
The four projects are funded through the Science and Technology International Collaboration Fund. Created in 2007, the fund helps Manitoba researchers participate in international leading-edge scientific research, provides access to funds, raises the profile of Manitoba research and supports the establishment of new collaborative research and development initiatives with international partners.
Project 1 – Creating more sustainable biofuels
Working with two New Zealand government research organizations, SCION and the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, the University of Manitoba will look at utilizing bacteria to convert agricultural waste byproducts into fuel and value-added products like biodegradable plastics. This would provide a more sustainable source for biofuels than corn and wheat. The process could revolutionize the face of future energy needs and limit the growing dependence on agricultural products for fuel rather than food.
Project 2 – Developing healthier foods
The University of Manitoba and the University of Adelaide in Australia are researching the benefits of omega-3. There is a need to find sources of omega-3 that align with the food preferences of various populations. This project is focused on developing a blend of omega-3 fatty acids that will significantly increase omega-3 levels in poultry meat and eggs.
Project 3 – Furthering international HIV research
Researchers from the Public Health Agency of Canada, University of Manitoba and Israel’s Hebrew University are exploring the interaction between particular proteins and inhibitory receptors and their effect on destroying HIV-infected cells. It is anticipated this project will lead to an increased understanding of the rate of HIV infection and disease progression. It will also potentially provide targets for both preventative and therapeutic developments against the virus and disease.
Project 4 – Reducing Type 2 diabetes
Food and Agriculture for Diabetes Elimination (FADE), is a tri-national endeavour between Manitoba, Kansas, and Monterrey, Mexico. FADE seeks to develop food products to help reduce Type 2 diabetes by incorporating raw materials that lower caloric intake, decrease body mass and improve glycemic control. Targeting at-risk populations like low-income or remote communities, these novel food products will have long shelf lives, withstand temperature extremes and can be prepared with little or no electricity.