By KELLY LOUISEIZE
Mining, forestry and health are the targeted industries identified in the Northern Ontario Biotechnology Initiative (NOBI) report, which has been submitted to the provincial government.
The goal of the paper was to develop a shared view of the life sciences sector from a private and public stakeholder’s perspective. Within the three sectors, bioproducts, environment and public health have been recognized as subclusters that may leverage provincial opportunities for the North.
According to the Biotechnolgy Cluster Strategy Step 2, bioproducts consists of GIS mapping, which determines the amount and quality, and the potential opportunities, of forest resources. It also includes various plant species like the Canadian yew, which is known for its healing properties on aggressive cancers. Environment refers to research and development pertaining to biomining, remediation and assists in sector co-operation in reducing environmental impacts.
Public health subcluster has the potential of developing a centre of excellence in robotics for clinical medicine, mitochondrial medicines, as well as the
establishment of a tissue and bone bank.
“It is the beginning of what we expect to be a big activity in Northern Ontario,” Magdy Basta, president and CEO of Neureka Research Corp., says.
The submission of the report to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade indicates the near completion of Phase 1 for the Biotechnology Cluster
Innovation Program. In mid-December, committee members were still waiting on a response from government, in terms of whether or not Phase 1 was accepted and whether or not the committee will have funding for Phase 2.
Phase 2 is the application for Regional Innovation Grants that will build the human resources knowledge and establish facilities and parks to be used for innovation networks.
Cluster regions can obtain government grants up to 50 per cent of the cost of developing the structure with a ceiling limit of $5 million per cluster. It will require funds from private sectors, as government investment will not be enough to rule the projects.
This is where Northern Ontario differs from larger city counterparts like Ottawa. Toronto or Montreal, says Errol Caldwell, project lead of Science Enterprise Algoma, which is the Sault Ste. Marie biocluster.
The question is how will the North maintain momentum. Although the northern cluster has come a long way in a short time, the future, Caldwell says, “is not going to be easy.”