All posts by Jenny Keleher

Explore New Brunswick Industrial Facilities and Research Centres at the Technology Tours

The Technology Tours are Part of the 2017 Atlantic Biorefinery Conference, June 7-9, 2017 Jenny Keleher April 25, 2017

The Technology Tours are a full-day of tours that take you inside industrial facilities and research centres that are part of the bioeconomy value chain. Participants will see equipment in action and learn about ongoing projects based in New Brunswick.

The Technology Tours are a vehicle to spark discussion and new projects within Atlantic Canada’s biorefining and bioprocessing industries. These groups represent a full spectrum of players from all aspects of the bioeconomy value chain, from natural resource management to commercialized bio-products.

The first day of the 2017 Atlantic Biorefinery Conference (June 7th – 9th), will be a full day of visits to 6 sites across New Brunswick. Conference registrants have a choice of 2 tours.

This year`s tours will feature:

  • Forest Protection Limited and their fire fighting airplanes and spruce budworm tracking program
  • Envirem Organics‘ organic bio-products
  • ADI Systems R&D Centre for wastewater testing
  • The Huntsman Marine Science Centre‘s new facility upgrades
  • A guide boat tour of Cooke Aquaculture’s Salmon Farm Site in Saint Andrews, NB

Click here to learn more about the Technology Tours.


BioNB is co-hosts the 2017 Atlantic Biorefinery Conference in partnership with Springboard Atlantic and the Biorefinery Technology Scale-Up Centre at CCNB. BIOCON is the flagship event for showcasing and accelerating high-impact projects within Atlantic Canada’s biorefining industry.

This 3-day conference is filled with Technology Tours, meaningful networking, and presentations on real technologies and big ideas. You can learn more about the Conference here, or contact the organizing team at


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Chinova Bioworks Selected Into Terra, the Food + Ag Accelerator

Jenny Keleher April 6, 2017

[San Francisco, Apil 6, 2017] Today, Chinova Bioworks announced that it has been selected into the inaugral cohort of startups for Terra, the Food + Ag Tech Accelerator. Founded by Rabobank and RocketSpace, Terra is a first of its kind accelerator program bringing together the industry’s most disruptive startups and progressive corporations to fuel cross-industry innovation and set a new standard for food and agriculture. The cohort – with global representation from across five countries (Canada, Spain, Thailand, UK, USA) and industry sectors – kicks off today on RocketSpace’s tech campus in San Francisco.

Unlike traditional accelerators, Terra’s unique consortium model brings together a diverse group of industxry leaders – both big and small – to explore and experiment with potential partnerships through a dedicate product validation program. Robabank and RocketSpace, along with Terra’s corporate collaborators – AgroFresh, Beta San Miguel, Givudan, Griffith Foods, Grupo Azucarero Mexico/CULTIBA and OSI Group – selected Chinova Bioworks from a competitive applicant pool of hundreds of startups from around the world.

Press Release – Chinova Bioworks to Terra Accelerator

Natasha Dhayagude, CEO
Chinova Bioworks
Peter Morrow
Terra Accelerator

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Biotechnology Companies Sweep Provincial Podium at Breakthru Start-Up Competition

Pfera Inc. takes grand prize, and SomaDetect and WEnTech grab runner-up spots Jenny Keleher March 27, 2017

Last week, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation named the winners of the Breakthru Start-up Competition amid much pomp and anticipation. Over 500 people attended the Breakthru Live Awards Dinner on March 23, 2017, a high-energy event that celebrated the participants and finalists.


The talk of the night was what NBIF CEO Calvin Milbury called “the highest quality round of competitors we’ve ever had.” The cross-sectoral group of start-ups is developing products for a variety of industries including personal finance, agriculture technology, video surveillance, waste-to-energy, and more.

High quality competitors? No doubt. But what inspired us most of all is the breadth of solutions, and the number of industries represented on the “podium.”

The top three Provincial victory spots were landed by 3 companies who are prime examples of marrying the old with the new: using modern information technology platforms to innovate in our traditional sectors. Biotechnology and information technology are not separate industries, but rather complimentary tools to develop cross-sectoral solutions.


The National Grand Prize was awarded to social app Newpy. Personal finance app Quber took home the CBC Viewer’s Choice Award.


New Brunswick has a long history of innovating in our traditional sectors. Historically, we are a land of fishermen, foresters, and farmers, who, to this day, are exporting around the world with value-added products. Companies like McCain Foods, Cooke Aquaculture, and Remsoft are global companies using cutting edge technologies to innovate in our natural resource sectors and create wealth here in New Brunswick.

BioNB operates at the centre of the provincial effort to build the bioscience sector in New Brunswick, so you can imagine our delight when Pfera Inc. took the grand prize and WEnTech Solutions and SomaDetect were named runners-up at the Breakthru Awards.  The victories represent almost 1$ million in funding across the three New Brunswick companies. These start-ups are led by some of the hardest working people in the province who have the passion and technical expertise to grow companies from the ground up. In all three cases, the founders developed their ideas after working in an industry, identifying a problem, and creating a solution themselves. That is entrepreneurship.

So, why them? Why did these 3 companies win? We think it has to do with the revenue-generating projects and pilots that all of them have on the horizon. These companies are using Atlantic Canada as a sandbox to validate and pilot their technologies; a concept that BioNB has been selling to the world for the last 3 years. With one of the strongest start-up ecosystems in the country and a diversity of traditional industries and biomass to work with, we are one of the best playgrounds in which to validate technologies and start companies.

Grand prize winner Pfera Inc. is testing their biotech solution for horse breeders in a pilot with PEI farms. Their technology helps horse owners predict precisely when their mares will give birth, saving significant time and money in a small but lucrative industry.

Runner-up SomaDetect is on a similar path with their solution for dairy farmers, a detection tool that helps dairy farmers quickly assess the health of their herd and their milk. The region’s dairy industry is certainly intrigued, and SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande is aiming for a five-farm pilot project in 2017.

Breakthru’s other runner up, WEnTech Solutions, has built their IT platform W-SAS to help engineers more easily assess the details around waste-to-energy projects. Their resource-saving tool is attracting interest in their industry with paying customers already in the hopper from around the region and across the globe.

NBIF said “New Brunswick is the big winner in Breakthru.” We would have to agree! Giving away cash is great, but Breakthru provided a platform for these hard-working entrepreneurs to get visibility regionally and nationally. We can’t wait to see where these companies go next, and we will have our eye on the next bio-innovators for future competitions.


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The Toolbank of R&D: Science Atlantic Database Puts Investigative Tools in Researchers’ Hands

Jenny Keleher March 24, 2017

March 2017—A powerful new means of advancing research and development in Atlantic Canada made its debut in Halifax today. Known as AFRED (Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database), this open-access database will connect researchers in the region to the equipment and facilities they need to answer their foremost questions—whether they’re trying to understand the brain, build a silent windmill, or craft the perfect cupcake.

Click here to read the original press release.
Science Atlantic, a non-profit association of 16 post-secondary and research institutes in Atlantic Canada, launched AFRED at Dalhousie University’s Life Sciences Research Institute in Halifax in early March. The association began work on the project in 2010, shepherding AFRED from a simple spreadsheet to a sophisticated searchable database.
“AFRED will enable researchers in Atlantic Canada to make use of specialized equipment they might otherwise not know even exists,” says Dr. David McCorquodale, Science Atlantic’s chair and Dean of Science & Technology at Cape Breton University. “The database is available to anyone to access for free, whether they’re conducting their research in a university, community college, government agency, hospital, non-profit, or private enterprise. We see AFRED as a powerful tool for building cross-sector partnerships and opening the door to new possibilities for innovation, business development and wealth creation in the region.”
AFRED provides researchers with access to a registry of significant research infrastructure available in Atlantic Canada, and connects them to the facilities’ hosts and technical experts at the stroke of a key. This saves them enormous amounts of time trying to locate relevant facilities and allows them to conduct studies they could not undertake without either acquiring the equipment themselves or accessing it outside the region. At the same time, it ensures that expensive research assets do not sit idle and are utilized to their full capacity instead.
The Government of Canada provided a non-repayable contribution of $181,897 to the project through ACOA’s Business Development Program, while Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provided $16,850.


“The Government of Canada is committed to working with Atlantic Canada’s worldclass
research and academic facilities to promote innovation and foster effective
partnerships between businesses and research partners,” says the Honourable
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and
Minister responsible for ACOA. “This project will help maximize available resources,
increase research and development interaction between business, academia and
government, and strengthen the research and innovation base in Atlantic Canada.”
More than 400 pieces of equipment in over 80 facilities at 19 institutions have
registered listings in AFRED so far. Science Atlantic is continuing to receive requests
to be listed from potential new facilities and aims to expand the database until all
eligible facilities in the region are listed. This includes facilities operated by
government, non-profit organizations and private companies, in addition to
universities and community colleges. AFRED will optimize the use of resources and
build R&D capacity in Atlantic Canada in sectors ranging from health care and
biotech to fishing and forestry, foods and nutraceuticals, IT and aerospace, and
biofuels and renewable energy technologies.
“Our government is committed to supporting scientists whose discoveries provide
us with the evidence we need to build a strong economy, a sustainable environment
and a vibrant middle class,” says the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of
Science. “By strengthening the opportunities for collaboration between scientists
and entrepreneurs, we are ensuring future generations will benefit from the
incredible research being conducted in labs throughout the Atlantic region.”
AFRED is also supported by Springboard Atlantic, BioNB, the region’s universities,
several community colleges, and other partners who are coming on board as AFRED
Quick facts

  •  In the making since 2010, AFRED has progressed from a simple tool for
    universities to share equipment information to a powerful database built to
    support economic development by fostering innovation and inter-sectoral
  • More than 400 pieces of equipment in over 80 facilities at 19 institutions are
    currently registered in AFRED. Science Atlantic receives new listing requests
    on an ongoing basis and plans to expand the database until all eligible
    facilities in the region are listed.
  • AFRED is well positioned to foster innovative collaborations and business
    growth. The database provides any researcher or entrepreneur access to
    equipment at universities, government and not-for-profit facilities for proofof-
    concept and product-development studies in diverse sectors such as
    aerospace, information technology, renewable energy, food sciences,
    nutraceuticals, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, animal health, and more.
  • All R&D spending in Atlantic Canada averaged $1.2 billion per year from 2011
    to 2013 and the region’s business R&D grew by an annual average of 2.1 per
    cent, between 2003 and 2013 compared to 1.3 per cent at the national
    level.*Source: Statistics Canada, Table 358-001


Associated links

Follow Science Atlantic on social media:
Twitter: @scienceatlantic and @AFREDatabase
Patty King
Science Atlantic / AFRED Program Manager
(902) 494-6910

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Discover ExportNB Web Portal – 3 Demo Sessions Around New Brunswick

Jenny Keleher March 7, 2017

LearnSphere Canada and the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) are is pleased to invite the business community to discover ExportNB, New Brunswick’s first-ever one-stop web portal dedicated to helping businesses and economic developers grow the Province’s exports.


Supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Province of New Brunswick, the portal is a gateway through which exporters, potential and current exporters can test their export readiness, build an export plan, consolidate market entry strategies, register for exportrelated events and connect with key players, all in one place.


With the help of CCNB, LearnSphere will demonstrate how ExportNB can support the market expansion plans of New Brunswick exporters.  The interactive sessions are intended for current and potential exporters and for those working in the economic development or business community.


Contact Micheline Sirois to register:


Date Place Time
March 16 Shippagan, 143 – Amphiteatre UMCS 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
March 28 Dieppe, CCNB Campus, Amphitheatre 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
 March 30  Bathurst, CCNB campus, P234 – Salle des Pères-Eudistes 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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Soricimed Publishes the Results of Phase I Study of SOR-C13 in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors

Jenny Keleher March 2, 2017

TORONTO, Canada, February 21, 2017 – Soricimed Biopharma Inc. (“Soricimed”), a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company discovering and developing peptide-based cancer therapeutics, is pleased to announce publication of their paper entitled, First-in-human phase I study of SOR-C13, a TRPV6 calcium channel inhibitor, in patients with advanced solid tumors. This peer-reviewed paper was published in the journal Investigational New Drugs, The Journal of New Anticancer Agents. This open-access publication can be viewed online HERE.

SOR-C13 is the first drug candidate targeting TRPV6 to enter human clinical trials. This publication describes the design and results of a multi-center Phase 1 clinical trial and shares the conclusion that SOR-C13 was safe and well tolerated, without evidence of the significant toxicities often observed with cytotoxic chemotherapy. Additionally, the study provided preliminary indication of anticancer activity, including promising activity in two patients with pancreatic cancer, who had failed three prior regimens of treatment. These findings follow recent announcements of SOR-C13 being granted orphan drug designation for the treatment of both ovarian and pancreatic cancer, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“It is important for the advancement of novel approaches to address difficult to treat cancer and be able to share details of Soricimed’s Phase I trial in such a well-respected peer-reviewed journal”, stated Siqing Fu, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Investigator & Associate Professor, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center. “This trial involved 9 investigators and three clinical sites in the United States and Canada and was conducted under FDA and Health Canada regulations. The findings from this trial are very promising and warrant further study. My colleagues and I, at MD Anderson, look forward to working with Soricimed on future clinical trials of SOR-C13 as a new approach to treating solid-tumor cancer.”
“We are very pleased to be sharing our strong scientific and clinical data with the anticancer community”, stated Professor Jack Stewart, Chief Scientific Officer, Soricimed Biopharma, Inc. “Anonymous peer review helps validate our methods, our data interpretation and our conclusions from this important study. These results, plus our two Orphan Drug Status designations, warrant developing this new drug to the next human trials. It’s an exciting time for Soricimed.”
About SOR-C13: SOR-C13 is a first-in-class peptide in development for the treatment of cancer. SOR-C13 binds with high selectivity and affinity to TRPV6, a calcium channel that is highly elevated in prostate, breast, lung and ovarian cancer and correlates with poor outcomes. TRPV6-mediated Ca2+ entry is responsible for maintaining a high tumour proliferation rate, as well as increasing tumour cell survival, promoting metastases and fortifying mechanisms that withstand cell destruction. By binding to this channel, SOR-C13 starves cancer cells of calcium that is needed for cell growth and division. Due to the high specificity of SOR-C13 for its target and its unique mechanism of action this drug candidate may result in fewer and less severe side effects compared to standard cancer chemotherapy. SOR-C13 is the first drug candidate targeting TRPV6 to have entered clinical development anywhere in the world.
About Soricimed Biopharma: Soricimed Biopharma Inc. is a private Canadian clinical-stage company developing novel cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. Soricimed’s drug candidates have demonstrated a capability to reduce cancer cell viability, induce apoptosis and to reduce human tumour volume while minimizing side-effects in classic animal and in vitro tumour models. Soricimed recently announced positive results indicating safety, tolerability and potential activity in a Phase I trial of SOR-C13 in subjects with advanced solid tumour cancers. Additionally, Soricimed obtained two orphan drug statuses for treatment of ovarian and for pancreatic cancers with SOR-C13. Privately held, Soricimed is funded through private investors and various programs from the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick. For more information please visit,


For More Information:
Julie Fotheringham – Partner, Hageman Communications

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From the ONB Blog: New Brunswick Biotech Startup Helps Engineering Firms Make Better Decisions

BY JASON BOIES Jenny Keleher March 2, 2017

Ce contenue est seulement disponible en anglais.

Click here to read the full story at

WEnTech is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company specializing in biomass and the waste-to-energy industry. The company’s software solution, WEnTech Smart Analysis System (W-SAS ™) provides engineering consultants with up-to-date information allowing for proactive decision making regarding waste-to-energy opportunities.

CEO Amir Akbari and CTO Farough Motasemi both immigrated to Canada from Iran. Their entrepreneurial journey began at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton, the country’s most entrepreneurial post-secondary institution.

ONB caught up with both men to discuss living in Canada, and launching a business from New Brunswick.

ONB: Where did the idea for WEnTech’s solution originate?

Farough: Our solution was created in response to an identified need we encountered during a municipal waste-to-energy consultation project. In that particular project, the municipality’s solid waste was dumped in a location outside the city for over 25 years, and there was potential for environmental and waste management issues as a result. The objective for the project was to identify a proper conversation technology and offer a viable business solution to remove waste material first, and then produce energy.

The preliminary assessment of the waste conversion technology systems took five months, and the subsequent financial evaluation was only conducted on a few of the identified technologies leading to an incomplete evaluation.

During this project we worked closely with a number of other consulting firms and found that they typically identified conversion technology systems they were aware of or had previous experience with. This identified a major problem in the preliminary assessment of the conversion technology selection process – a major problem that exists for all consulting engineering firms – their evaluations were all limited to a few technologies, increasing the risk of selecting a sub-optimal solution,and resulting in lost opportunities. In all cases, these assessments were also being done manually which increased assessment times and costs.

Amir: Back then we tried to find a solution for this problem and we couldn’t, so we decided to create one.

Click here to read the full interview with CEO Amir Akbari and CTO Farough Motasemi.





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New Report: Newcomers to Canada Need Ways to Show Skills to Biotech Employers

Jenny Keleher February 21, 2017

OTTAWA, February 21, 2017 – A labour market report, Paving the Way, released today by BioTalent Canada, surveyed skilled newcomers, immigrant serving agencies (ISAs) and employers, and included recommendations on how internationally educated professionals (IEPs) could better connect to jobs in Canada’s bio-economy.

Key report findings include:

IEPs arrive with the knowledge and skills needed by Canada’s bio-economy

  • Two-thirds (67.6%) of the IEPs surveyed reported having a minimum of a master’s degree and over half (56.8%) indicated having worked in biotechnology prior to immigrating to Canada.

Obstacles hinder IEPs’ path to enter Canada’s biotechnology sector

  • The greatest challenges facing IEPs entering Canada’s biotech workforce include finding jobs in their own field (51.9%) and lack of Canadian experience (46.5%).

Pre-screening may be a solution for skilled IEPs to connect to employers

  • Ninety percent (90.9%) of the ISAs surveyed agreed education and experience validation would help IEPs obtain employment in Canada’s bio-economy.
  • Biotechnology employers surveyed supported the concept of having access to pre-screened candidates.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Labour Market Integration Program, the report surveyed participants from the BioSkills Recognition Program, BioTalent Canada’s industry-skills validation process, which helps internationally-educated health professionals consider alternative career paths in biotechnology.

Findings indicate many talented newcomers continue to have their skills and experience overlooked by hiring managers.  “The most common skills IEPs possess are those that are most needed by Canada’s bio-economy,” says Rob Henderson, President and CEO of BioTalent Canada. “We’re a sector that struggles with access to talent, so it’s crucial for businesses to recognize newcomers as an important talent pool.”

The report offers specific recommendations to improve the plight of skilled newcomers, using training and networking offered by Canada’s numerous immigrant serving agencies.  “Newcomers who access the services of Canada’s ISAs already have a distinct advantage,” says Rob Henderson. “Biotech employers told us that a skills validation process that could be accessed through those ISAs would be an effective method of fast-tracking newcomers to biotech jobs.”

The report was sponsored by:

  • BioNB
  • BIOQuébec
  • BIOTECanada
  • Life Science Association of Manitoba (LSAM)
  • LifeSciences BC
  • PEI BioAlliance
  • Bio Business Magazine
  • Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC)

The report is available online and in both official languages. To view or download a copy of the full report, visit


About BioTalent Canada
BioTalent Canada is the HR partner of Canada’s bio-economy. As an HR expert and national non-profit organization, BioTalent Canada focuses on building partnerships and skills for Canada’s bio-economy to ensure the industry has access to job-ready people. Through projects, research, and product development, BioTalent Canada connects employers with job seekers, delivers human resource information, and skills development tools so the industry can focus on strengthening Canada’s biotech business. For more information, please visit

Media inquiries:
Fiorella Jansen-Nicorescu
Marketing & Communications Manager
BioTalent Canada
613-235-1402 ext. 229

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New BioNB Team Member Sees Export Opportunities for New Brunswick Companies

Meet Joey Volpé, BioNB`s New International Business Development Officer Jenny Keleher February 20, 2017


Meet Joey Volpé: the newest member of the BioNB team, a former cargo ship deck hand, and the owner of at least 3 advanced degrees. His fun-loving nature and connection with the Francophone community in Northern New Brunswick has helped expand what we know about bioscience in the province.


What does a typical day look like as the IBDO (International Business Development Officer) at BioNB?


A typical day is spent meeting with businesses to understand their needs and goals, and providing them with the tools and information they need to develop export markets. Sometimes I can help businesses by putting them into contact with the right person, and other times I need to do some digging to help them find the right information.


Our team at BioNB works hard to communicate information and export opportunities within the bioscience sector. We also develop simple and effective training tools to help businesses conquer new markets. Like the rest of the team at BioNB what happens during a typical day changes from one to the next, but we try to focus as much as possible on understanding the needs of businesses within the bioscience sphere and spend our days doing what we can to support them.


What skills do you bring to the role?


I have a diverse background in business development and innovation. I’ve worked in the private and public sector as well as in academia. Being a business founder and owner myself, I have a very practical and result-driven mindset. I graduated from McGill with a Bachelor in Industrial Relations and I have a Bachelor of Law and a Masters in Environmental Studies from l’Université de Moncton. I also completed courses and certifications in sales and marketing.


In terms of my role as an IBDO I think one of the most important things I bring to the table is my research experience and results-driven mindset. I can help businesses sort through large amounts of information quickly to help them get to the core of things. I also have solid knowledge when it comes to funding and programs that companies can access to grow their business.


That being said, I am always very humble in terms of what I bring to the table. Entrepreneurs are very smart and passionate people. If I can help them by leveraging my skill set I am more than happy to do so but ultimately, they are the creators and developers. My role is to support them in whatever capacity they see fit.


What would New Brunswickers be surprised to learn about the companies you meet day to day?


New Brunswickers would be surprised to learn how many small businesses are operating on the world stage. We often think of globalization as an abstract concept that applies only to large multinational companies. However, our province’s smaller companies are increasingly export driven. The fact that the market here at home is so small pushes our businesses to look elsewhere for market opportunities. Some of our small businesses have impressive export expertise in specialized markets.

Some of our small businesses have impressive export expertise in specialized markets.

I think people would also be surprised to learn about the innovation that is going on in the province. Every week I am amazed at the number of great ideas that come out of our small province. At BioNB we aim to support businesses that have new ideas, processes and products. Our team strongly believes that the future economic success of the province depends on it.


In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing New Brunswick companies looking to export?


The red tape that applies to exporting products to another country is a major concern for businesses – especially small businesses and start-ups. Navigating the maze of legal requirements is time consuming when you are trying to develop a new market.


It can also be difficult to find the right expertise within the province to help you understand foreign markets. This is particularly true in the bioscience space, which contains many highly regulated sub-sectors.  Language and culture are also important barriers of entry within certain markets.


In your opinion, what is the biggest opportunity for New Brunswick companies looking to export?


There are currently many opportunities on the export front. I think New Brunswick’s small businesses sometimes under estimate our potential in terms of exporting value added products and technologies into specialty markets. As a province, we certainly must keep exporting our commodities like lumber, paper, petrol products, etc. But the real opportunity lies in adding value and developing technologies around our traditional sectors – value added maple products, blueberry extracts, ICT technologies around forestry and agriculture, biotechnology and value added biomass transformation just to name a few.

There are also new emerging markets like Europe with whom Canada has recently signed an important trade agreement. Asia is also an interesting market, but a bit more complicated. There are many export opportunities for small businesses, but they should not be pursued blindly. Developing new markets can be expensive and time consuming so sizing opportunities before making a decision is extremely important. This is one aspect where the team at BioNB can help.


Before working at BioNB, what was the most interesting or unusual job you had?


I would have to say that it was working as a deck hand on a cargo ship that travelled to North America, the Caribbean and South America. When the opportunity arose I had just graduated university and was working in human resources for a large multinational company. I didn’t hesitate to take the job much to the surprise of my friends that were eager to build a career. The funny thing was that my parents pointed out the opportunity and encouraged me to take it. Looking back I think they knew building character was much more important than building a career.

Looking back I think they knew building character was much more important than building a career.

It was gruelling work and long hours under the hot sun followed by freezing weather on the Bay of Fundy, but seeing a good chunk of the world from that perspective was an amazing experience. We always had between five and ten nationalities on the ship and we had stops in over 15 countries. I learned a lot very fast. Working on a cargo ship and docking in industrial cities gives you a much different experience than going to Venezuela to drink margaritas on an exclusive resort. The people I worked with on the ship were extremely nice to me even though we could barely communicate at the beginning… not to mention the fact that I had never been on a ship. I learned to work with people from all places and lifestyles. I also learned to be patient and supportive with young people that are starting out.



What do you love most about working as an IBDO for BioNB?


I love working with businesses and doing all I can to support them. Entrepreneurs are really the unsung heroes of our times. Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and staying on top of things is a major challenge for many of them. I am always very humbled by the amazing people that make up our provinces’ business community. I am just happy to play a very small part in it. If I can help a business grow or develop a new market I feel like I am contributing to our social wellbeing.


We sometimes get large corporate business and small business mixed up in the same pot. Small businesses are more often than not just friends and families trying to develop opportunities for themselves and their communities. We need to get our young people to understand that and to realize that building and owning a business is a very noble endeavour that also has important social implications. Without small businesses in this province we could not afford our hospitals and schools. The younger generation need to feel a sense of purpose in what they do. Being a socially responsible entrepreneur is a great way to live a life of purpose and passion. In a nutshell that is what I love about my job.

We need to get our young people to understand that and to realize that building and owning a business is a very noble

Are you a business with products, services, or technologies in value-added food, natural resource transformation, biotechnology, clean technologies, healthcare technologies, or related IT platforms? BioNB wants to hear from you!


Introduce yourself or visit our website.


Joey Volpe

International Business Development Officer



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4 New Brunswick Bioscience Companies Compete in Breakthru Startup Competition

4 of the 12 Breakthru Semi-finalists Work with Bioscience Technologies Jenny Keleher February 9, 2017

12 companies have made it to the semi-finals of Breakthru, a startup competition hosted by NBIF. 4 of the semifinalists are bioscience companies with technologies in agriculture, human and animal health, and bio-IT.


The Breakthru Competition is a nation-wide startup competition hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. With over $1,000,000 in prizes, it’s an opportunity for startups to secure funding and improve their business plan.

12 companies made it to the semi-finals, 4 of which with technologies in the biosciences. The number of bioscience startups is growing in New Brunswick, as is the network of collaborators and support for these new companies.

The 12 semi-finalists attended a bootcamp in January, and will submit their business plans for evaluation in February. The finalists are revealed March 1st and the winners will be announced at the Breakthru Gala Dinner scheduled for March 23rd in Fredericon.

The bioscience companies who have made it to the semi-finals are SomaDetect (dairy quality monitoring system), WEnTech Solutions (software for waste-to-energy projects), Zecken Laboratories (diagnostics for Lyme disease), and PFERA (milk analysis system that predicts when mares will give birth). BioNB got in touch with the 4 bio-competitors to learn about their experience with Breakthru and beyond.

All four companies are at different stages of developing their business, but each venture is based on a solid technology developed through work in the field or in the lab.

Kami Harris of Zecken Laboratories started her entrepreneurship journey as a researcher studying Lyme disease. “In working closely with the Lyme community through various research projects, I was constantly confronted by the need for better diagnostics.  In seeing that gap, I began to realize it was a product and service I had the ability to deliver.”

Competing in Breakthru has forced each business to refine their business plan, and participants are encouraged to get feedback from target customers. Lisa Pfister of PFERA is combining her engineering background and experience working in the equine industry to refine her prototype.

“My major lesson while preparing for Breakthru has been get real validation from real customers. Between the December Breakthru session and the January session, I set up my early adopter program. I found this really accelerated my understanding of what my customers are looking for.”

While Breakthru has helped some companies refine their business, others are using it as a platform to get their name known in the local business community and to raise capital to grow their business.

WEnTech is a software-as-a-service company (SaaS) specializing in the waste-to-energy sector which is a growing global market. These projects convert waste into electricity, heat, fuel, and chemicals. WEnTech’s software will help those projects be more efficient and complete their feasibility studies faster.

“We have secured some funding and already have paying early adopters, but we need strategic investors to grow the company quickly,” said CEO Amir Akbari. “Breakthru not only provides this opportunity, but it helps us share our stories and experiences with other companies in the New Brunswick startup community”.

The pressure and opportunity of Breakthru is looming and real, but for these companies it is just one step along the lengthy and challenging road to creating and growing a successful business.

“Beyond competing in Breakthru, we are working with our second paying customer and we should deliver on that project in the coming months.” says Amir. “We are working with our clients to gather feedback and improve our software. Our plan for 2017 is to complete five pilot projects”.

The 12 semi-finalists are strong and the competition is heated, but the competitors all agree that Breakthru is a great showcase of the spirit of Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurial community.

“We have a limited number of people with certain high-tech skills in this province, but they are all ready to get on board and help any startups they can” says Bethany Deshpande, CEO of Breakthru competitor SomaDetect. “Even in competition, we find opportunity to collaborate, to support each other, and to make friends. This has been a great lesson in the power of collaboration in our province, and is my favourite part of the entrepreneurial community here in Atlantic Canada”.

The Breakthru Gala Dinner is March 23rd at the Fredericton Convention Centre. Tickets are on sale now.


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