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Niagara sees promise in bio-economy
The potential is clearly there, now it’s time to assess thepromise. Niagara economic leaders are about to proceedwith an investment-marketing strategy as they continueto plan or a bio-industry cluster within the region.The marketing strategy, which will be done in 2009, isthe next step in going rom the existing Niagara embryoo bio-oriented companies and public institutions to aull-scale, critical-mass economic cluster that will createnew jobs and attract outside businesses and researchers.The investment study ollows a consultant’s report,Bioeconomy Industry Development Opportunities orNiagara, that surveyed the current state and potential othe region’s bio-inrastructure in the public and privatesectors.Big dollar fgures come with a successul bio-cluster.For example, the worldwide market or bioproductsalone is estimated to reach $150 billion US by 2050, theconsultant’s report notes. In Canada, as much as 10 percent o organic chemicals and plastics could be derivedrom biomass by 2010.“The report was helpul in terms o identiying moreo the research and development in the broadercommunity,” said Alan Teichroeb, vice-president obusiness development and services with NiagaraEconomic Development Corporation.The survey report, done by Vista Science and Technology,o Welland, ound extensive bio-research anddevelopment ongoing in both private and public sectorsbut that collaboration is limited. The report urgesnetworking and mobilizing o R & D resources, whichcould include sharing o best practices, as the wineindustry has done in Ontario.“I think awareness-building is going to be very criticalhere,” said Vista president Amy Lemay. “because I don’tthink anybody, including mysel, expected to fnd this R& D aspect as strong as it is.”The report, which is still being refned, concluded thatthe nascent bio-community needs a stronger investmentand venture capital base and ar more alignmentbetween the various players. But it notes that thereare great strengths in the amount o biomass in theregion, and its expertise in ermentation, plant genetics,biomanuacturing, biouels, and bio-energy.The region’s wineries are all about ermentation.Both Niagara College and Brock University areworking with plants and biomass. Brock plans a$90-million health and biosciences complex. TwoPort Colborne frms, Jungbunzlauer and CASCOInc., collaborate in making bio-processed products.Biolyse Pharma in St. Catharines makes paclitaxel,a cancer drug, rom the yew tree.In all, the Vista report identifes 22 Niagaraorganizations active in the bioeconomy, 18 owhich are in the private sector. Overall, morethan 80 per cent o organizations, mostly privatecompanies, were doing R & D. That knowledgebase itsel could be a draw in persuading outsidecompanies to locate in Niagara.But the rush to develop local bio-economiccommunities is headlong across Canada andaround the globe. Many areas o SouthernOntario are heavily involved in R & D, bio-product development, unctional oods,nutraceuticals, and energy-rom-waste projects.“One o the things I think Niagara has to do isto try to identiy the very unique opportunitiesthat exist . . . (but) we are somewhat behindthe curve in terms o some o the regions in thecountry and in the world,” said Lemay.Funding or Niagara’s bio-economy cluster studyis coming rom several partners, including theGolden Horseshoe Biosciences Network, androm the ederal Community Investment SupportProgram.
Mac gradgets toprecognition
McMaster PhDchemistry/biochemistrygrad Weian Zhaohas won honourablemention at a nationalsciences competition ora report on how a goldnanoparticle-detectionsystem might protectagainst and captureharmul pathogens suchas the SARS virus.Zhao’s report,Biodetection kits usinggold nanoparticle-coatedpaper, extolled the cost,fexibility and sensitivityvirtues o using goldnanoparticle-coated papercompared to currentdetection systems.The technology is parto the Sentinel BioactivePaper Network, aCanadian public-privateconsortium led byMcMaster University.The network hopesto develop paper-based systems,such as a acemask, to protectagainst, detectand deactivatepathogens.