Small company makes big advances in fighting antibiotic-resistant diseases and cancer

Halifax-based firm draws from expertise of Mitacs interns at Dalhousie University to investigate new technique

Chelation Partners’ approach to fighting antibiotic-resistant diseases is a novel one: cutting off their supply of iron. Without iron, bacteria have a tough time growing, and they’re more vulnerable to the effects of antibiotics. What’s more, Chelation Partners has discovered this tactic could also be applied to the fight against cancer. Cancer cells seem to be more sensitive to lower iron levels than other cells in the body, so reducing the availability of the metal might restrict the growth of cancer and boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Since 2012, Mitacs funding has allowed Chelation Partners to bring in four Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellows and a Mitacs Accelerate graduate student. They’ve worked on a trio of research projects: one investigating how reducing iron can help antibiotics prevent infections and inflammation in patients who have had eye lenses implanted; the other two have involved cutting iron levels to help fight cancer.

These are very important areas of study that we wouldn’t have been able to do without the help of the Mitacs programs,” says Chelation Partners Co-Founder and Vice-President of Business Development Bill Cheliak.

Brennan Gillis, Mitacs Director of Business Development for Nova Scotia, says part of the secret to Chelation Partners’ success has been its attitude towards welcoming new talent.

“The team at Chelation Partners is really positive and outgoing. They’re working with Mitacs on projects that create new opportunities for young researchers, and collaborating with faculty and students at Dalhousie and Cape Breton University.”

“This kind of collaboration works for everybody,” says Bill. “Interns get to do research they haven’t done before, they have new opportunities to publish their findings, and their professors get new grants.

“Mitacs gives us access to really good people, as well as to equipment and infrastructure at universities that we — as a small company — could never think of getting otherwise.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.