In the last couple of years, Canada’s Atlantic salmon farms have faced a surge of parasitic sea lice, making them susceptible to infections or killing entire stocks. Globally, the spread of sea lice now costs up to $1 billion dollars in lost revenues annually.
“Consumers and companies alike are looking for safe and natural ways to keep their products fresher for longer,” says Natasha, CEO of Chinova Bioworks. “But labels full of unpronounceable, artificial ingredients can turn consumers off. It was important to me to create an alternative to the chemical preservatives normally found in food and beverage products.”
While conceptualizing the product, Natasha was searching for someone to take it to the next level — and she knew that Mitacs was available to help fledgling companies like hers.
Now, a team of Mitacs researchers is working to understand the risks involved with aerial firefighting and is developing customized wearable and in-flight technologies that could improve pilot safety during wildfire seasons. Their goal: develop a system to monitor a pilot’s physical and cognitive conditions using the latest in wearable technologies to empower the pilot and flight operations to only deploy when it’s safe to fly.
In collaboration with University of Waterloo-Mitacs researcher, Yael Zilberman-Simakov, LeNano's portable device tests blood for a specific biomarker, a type of protein, elevated by the onset of heart failure. “If a patient has a higher-than-usual concentration of the biomarker, they are at an increased risk of having heart failure,” says Yael. “Similar to how glucose levels should be monitored among diabetic patients, this type of protein needs to be checked every day.Compared to a lab test, personal test devices like LeNano's are faster, simpler, and more convenient.
A few years later, that opportunity has allowed Joel to build a career for himself, and make developments that have benefitted the company and Canada’s agricultural sector.
“It was hardcore research,” says Joel, looking back on his internship. “Not just gathering data, but also looking at the results, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations directly to the general manager. It was more like a project as a professional than as an intern, and it definitely gave me a foot in the door.” Joel’s internship also led to the company filing a patent on some of his work.
Sana Maqsood, a PhD student at Carleton University, wants to educate young internet users on how to stay safe in the online world. Through Mitacs’ internship program, Sana is working with MediaSmarts — a local not-for-profit organization that promotes digital literacy among youth — to create a video game that helps players combat the risks found in cyberspace.
The company is a spin-off from McMaster University and was created “organically,” says InnovoGENE CEO Kha Tram. It all started when Kha was completing his PhD at McMaster and was looking to develop technology that could quickly identify E. coli in food. He realized the same technology could be used to rapidly test bacteria in water — and InnovoGENE was born.
To help tackle this environmental issue, Mitacs intern Oldooz Pooyanfar, a graduate student from Simon Fraser University’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, is working on a ‘smart’ system that monitors the health of honey bees and their hives. Once installed inside a beehive, her integrated monitoring system allows beekeepers to observe and track the health of their colonies. The device uses microscopic sensors and microphones to pick up sounds and vibrations emitted by bees and can also be used to observe the temperature and humidity of each hive.
This is the focus of Dartmouth Medical Research — a Canadian start-up based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who has a bone adhesive technology and is focused on developing and launching the product into market. The “glue” would provide a simple and fast method of fixing fractures, especially ones where there may be many small fragments that are difficult to fix by conventional means. The adhesive holds bones together while providing more comfort to patients and increasing recovery time.