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Biotech cluster in the offing (11/03)

By KELLY LOUISEIZE Out of a need to propel the northern region forward, Northern Centre for Biotechnology and Clinical Research put forth an application to form a committee to study and establish biotechnology initiatives here in the North.
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By KELLY LOUISEIZE

Out of a need to propel the northern region forward, Northern Centre for Biotechnology and Clinical Research put forth an application to form a committee to study and establish biotechnology initiatives here in the North.

The committee, known as the Northern Ontario Biotechnology Initiative, or NOBI, has 11 members representing five main regions in the North.

“They have come together to conduct an in-depth study on developing a biotechnology plan for Northern Ontario,” Margo Shaw, director of Upper Lakes Environmental Research Network, says.

“Six of the 11 members are from industry.”

Thunder Bay, North Bay, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury have appointed an economic development officer to focus on biotechnology as an economic growth area, as well as one or more representatives from the biotechnology industry.

“ULERN has been hired to be the project manager,” she adds.

The first part of the development of the project was to invite people with vested interests in the bio field to participate in the project.

“We have contacted colleges and universities, research institutes and private corporations, as well as non-profit corporations to become part of the process.”

The study will then focus on three main streams that could enhance the biotechnology sector in the North.

“One would be what we call bio-products; bio-mining and bio-remediation is the second and bio-medical is the last sector.”

The intention will be to document current initiatives in those areas, Shaw explains. For example, investigations will determine the amount of work activity in a specific sector on behalf of private companies, research facilities and post-secondary institutions.

The committee will then make recommendations based on the findings and “capitalize on the strengths as they exist.”

NOBI has just signed agreements with funding agencies.

“Those agreements have been signed, or have just been signed as we speak. As soon as we choose consultants and have signed agreements, then we will actually be collecting the data.”

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. has provided $150,000, and the northern committee is in the final stage of negotiations with FedNor to obtain $244,000. Total funding for the project is set at approximately $944,000, with northern regions providing cash or in-kind contributions.

Ministry of Enterprise Opportunity and Innovation granted $200,000 in the first phase of a $30-million province-wide biotechnology Innovation Program (BCIP) to Northern Ontario, with the purpose of investigating the potential and current activities in the biotechnology sector.

Results of the study by NOBI are anticipated to be in by March 2004, and from there the committee can

determine what direction the region should pursue.




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