First-of-their-kind Canadian innovations celebrated

Ottawa, ON

Six researchers, a leading professor, a spin-off company, and a humanitarian-response company are receiving recognition for their game-changing achievements in Canadian research. Their innovations include developing a less costly and more environmentally friendly way to produce cannabinoids, launching a leading-edge breast imaging device that provides high-resolution images at a lower radiation dose, advancing stem cell research as an effective treatment for type 1 diabetes, and demonstrating that plain cigarette packaging increases attention to health warnings.

The 20th anniversary Mitacs Awards celebrate students, professors, and business owners who have made significant achievements in innovation while participating in Mitacs-funded programs. They include six awards for outstanding innovation, two for exceptional leadership, and one for commercialization of a novel idea.

“Innovation in Canada continues to be inspired by the groundbreaking work of up-and-coming researchers that touch all industry sectors and help to fuel the economy,” says Jennifer Wilkie, Mitacs interim CEO. “Their achievements are truly remarkable and Mitacs is honoured to support them, and broker important connections between industry, post-secondary institutions and government that make their innovative work possible.”


The 2019 Mitacs Award winners are:


Mitacs Award and NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization

Oleksandr Bubon, a postdoctoral fellow from Lakehead University with the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute, launching a low-dose radiation breast imaging device capable of detecting tumours in their earliest stages of cancer, even in women with dense breast tissue. The technology is currently being developed and tested by Radialis Medical, a joint venture co-founded by Bubon and Lakehead Professor Alla Reznik. Clinical trials are under way at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto with results expected before the end of the year.

Alejandro Adem Legacy Award for Outstanding Innovation – Indigenous (Co-recipient)

Renelle Dubosq, a PhD researcher at the University of Ottawa, spent time at the Max Planck Institut in Düsseldorf to better understand the atomic structure of Fool’s Gold (pyrite). By showing that traces of gold are actually freed during rock deformation — the process of folding, faulting or shearing — her research will help geologists target their mining efforts more effectively.


Alejandro Adem Legacy Award for Outstanding Innovation – Indigenous (Co-recipient)

Melissa Tremblay, who did her PhD at the University of Alberta, where she is currently and Assistant Professor, worked with the Terra Centre and the Brentwood Family Housing Society developing a supportive housing model for teen parents and their children, providing tangible evidence to show that such programs make a positive impact.


Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – International

Jason Tam, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, is discovering that the ability of rare earth oxides to repel water is not naturally occurring. His work, which was conducted in partnership with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, is important because it refutes earlier findings that suggested ceramic forms of such oxides held potential as a stronger, more durable alternative to thin polymer coatings, widely used as water repellents in industrial applications such as steam turbines, power generation heat exchangers, and aircraft engines.


Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Master’s

Sandra Frey, a Master’s researcher from the University of Victoria, worked with Innotech Alberta to study data collected from wildlife cameras to show how animal behaviour patterns change when people disturb their habitats, information that can ultimately be used as an early warning system to detect and prevent wildlife decline.


Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation ­­– PhD

Douglas Kondro, a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary, is bringing stem cell research one step closer to use in a clinical setting for the treatment of diseases such as type 1 diabetes. In collaboration with STEMCELL Technologies, Kondro is specifically working to extend the capabilities of the AggreWell tissue engineering system.


Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Postdoctoral

Mohammed Al-Hamdani, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Dalhousie, is working with the Lung Association of Nova Scotia to show that Health Canada’s format for plain cigarette packaging increases attention to health warnings and is an effective deterrent for smokers who are predisposed to a fear of illness.


Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership – Professor

Isabel Desgagné-Penix, a professor at the University of Québec at Trois-Rivières, is collaborating with Algae-C, a biosynthetic company, to grow cannabinoids such as CBD and THC — the two major components of medical marijuana — in microscopic algae, providing a less expensive, more environmentally friendly alternative to cannabis plants.


Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership – Industry

Humanitas Solutions, with founder and CEO Dr. Abdo Shabah, is developing solutions to increase security and protect human life. They are working with eight Canadian universities and international organizations — including the United Nations — to develop technologies for emergency and humanitarian response in climate change-related events, helping people across the world as they face devastating situations.

The 2019 Mitacs Awards are possible, in part, thanks to Platinum Partner, Ciena; Event Supporter, National Research Council; Media Partner, The Hill Times; Gold Supporters, Sanofi Pasteur and ThinkOttawa; and Silver Supporter Element AI.


Quick facts:

Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from the best academic institutions at home and around the world.

Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada as well as the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Manitoba, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, along with university and industry partners.

Working with more than 100 post-secondary institutions, Mitacs builds partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. Open to all disciplines and all industry sectors, projects can span a wide range of areas, including manufacturing, business processes, IT, social sciences, design and more.