Eighth annual Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards recognizes top Canadian talent and breakthrough innovations
Waterloo, ON — The eighth annual Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards ceremony took place in Waterloo, Ontario, on May 18, 2023. During the festivities, five up-and-coming researchers turned entrepreneurs were recognized for their efforts to turn their ground-breaking discoveries into innovative businesses that impact the lives of Canadians.
The awards are an important opportunity to showcase Mitacs talent and honour some of Canada’s most innovative start-up companies — each founded by outstanding former Mitacs program participants that have gone on to become leading entrepreneurs and business owners in their respective fields. The Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards also create an important opportunity for researchers, academics, and industry to come together, in person and online, to connect and foster new partnerships throughout the innovation ecosystem.
The 2023 Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners are:
- Outstanding Entrepreneur: Dr. Rafaela Andrade, post-doctoral researcher at Dalhousie University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Co-founder and CEO of Myomar Molecular. Andrade’s company has developed the world’s first urine strip test for measuring muscle loss. The goal is to monitor for indicators of muscle loss early on so precautions can be taken. Normally, muscle loss is only monitored after neuromuscular diseases such as ALS or muscular dystrophy are diagnosed or signs of muscle loss appear, using expensive medical imaging systems like an MRI or CT scan. Myomar Molecular’s test is designed for the general population and works like a simple home pregnancy test, allowing users to get their results by snapping a picture of the completed test strip on their phone.
- Change Agent Entrepreneur: Jeremy Wang, who earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo and is now Co-founder and COO of Ribbit. Wang is being honoured for his ground-breaking work to develop Canada’s first autonomous cargo airline — which is on track to start a commercial pilot project by the middle of next year. The company’s goal is to rewire the transportation network to be faster, more efficient and more accessible to remote communities that currently don’t have reliable air transportation for necessities such as food and medicine. Working in collaboration with Transport Canada since its inception in 2020, Ribbit completed its first gate-to-gate, hands-free flight in 2021 — a first for Canada.
- Social Entrepreneur: Nanette Sene earned a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal and now serves as CEO and co-founder of Juno Technologies. Sene is being recognized for her company’s ground-breaking work to develop a cutting-edge, wearable device that combines heat with microelectronics to quickly alleviate muscle cramps and menstrual pain. With menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) a widespread problem affecting 80% of women globally, leading to lost productivity and absenteeism, the first-of-its-kind, rechargeable device, which is comfortably worn under clothing, offers long-lasting relief. It discreetly adheres to the pelvic area of the abdomen, using microelectronics to relax the muscles and block pain signals from travelling to the brain.
- Global Impact Entrepreneur: Irsa Wiginton, post-doctoral researcher at the Queen’s University Cancer Research Institute and Business Development Officer of mDETECT Inc. Wiginton is easing the burden of breast cancer patients by giving oncologists an effective way to monitor tumours to identify the best, personalized treatment using a simple, routine blood test. The blood test monitors specific epigenetic markers in tumour DNA that are shed into a patient’s bloodstream and uses next-generation sequencing to quantify changes in tumour volume. One tube of blood, drawn every one or two weeks, can accurately measure if a tumour is shrinking or continuing to grow, indicating whether or not the current treatment therapy is working. A clinical study has been launched through Kingston General Hospital and Ottawa Hospital.
- Environmental Entrepreneur: Kevin Kung, post-doctoral researcher in the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and CTO of Takachar. Kung is helping to improve air quality worldwide by giving farmers an environmentally friendly alternative to open-air burning and foresters a better way to manage flammable forest residue. His breakthrough innovation, a small-scale, portable system, converts costly crop and forest residues (biomass) into higher value bioproducts, such as fertilizer blends, chemicals, and biofuels. The company is currently working with several First Nations communities in B.C. and other partners to test multiple prototypes of the technology in collaboration with UBC.
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
“The winners of the Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards for 2023 are a perfect representation of the incredible innovation, ambition and skills of today’s Canadians who want to make a positive impact on the lives of others through leadership. Our government is a proud supporter of Mitacs and its work to make our country a world leader in innovation. Congratulations to Canada’s next innovators!’’
The Honourable Jill Dunlop, Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities
“Our government is focused on the long-term economic growth of Ontario by supporting entrepreneurs and making key investments in research and innovation. Ontario is proud to support thousands of new Mitacs internships this year, which will help researchers and start-ups maximize the value of their made-in-Ontario research and intellectual property. The exceptional winners of today’s Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards represent the bright future of the research and innovation community in our province.”
John Hepburn, CEO, Mitacs
“A successful innovation economy cannot exist without entrepreneurs. Start-ups drive innovation in Canada, they dream big and push boundaries, bringing research from ideation to commercialization. Mitacs is extremely proud to play a role in supporting small businesses and emerging entrepreneurs through our continued investment in talent, research, and development. It is a pleasure to celebrate the incredible accomplishments and impact of our 2023 Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners.”
Tash Ismail, Chief of Business Development, Mitacs
“As someone who has the privilege of working with stakeholders from the innovation ecosystem in Canada and abroad, I have a front row seat to innovation in action – the big ideas that become new enterprises, the transformative start-ups creating meaningful change, making the world safer, kinder, cleaner, healthier, happier and more prosperous. The innovative entrepreneurs we’re celebrating today are the changemakers of tomorrow. Each of this year’s five Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners, are equipped with the vision, resilience, and drive to transform their sectors. As Mitacs, we feel privileged, to have played a role in the creation of these enterprises and will continue to support these special humans on their innovation journey.”
A recording of the 2023 Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards ceremony will be available on youtube.com/MitacsCanada in the coming days.
Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Mitacs assists organizations in reaching their goals, funds cutting-edge innovation, and creates job opportunities for students and postdocs. A not-for-profit organization, Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon. Learn more at mitacs.ca.