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Biotech firm garners FedNor support (10/02)

By Frank Scarcello FedNor has announced funding of $1.4 million to assist a cutting-edge biotechnology company in Thunder Bay and provide funds for the development of a new industrial park on local First Nations land.
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By Frank Scarcello

FedNor has announced funding of $1.4 million to assist a cutting-edge biotechnology company in Thunder Bay and provide funds for the development of a new industrial park on local First Nations land.

In late September, Andy Mitchell, secretary of state for Rural Development (FedNor) presented a cheque for $875,000 to Genesis Genomics of Thunder Bay. The local biotechnology company, one of only two in North America, is developing DNA-based detection tools for the early detection of cancer.

“The development of this technology has the potential to revolutionize the battle against cancer on a global scale,” says Mitchell. “Creating a biotechnology enterprise in Northern Ontario is important to the region and complements the establishment of Thunder Bay as a regional health sciences centre.”

The company has also received funding of $133,000 from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, says Robert Thayer, chief executive officer and vice-president of business development for Genesis Genomics.

Thayer says the financial support from the federal government is a very significant milestone for his company. He also praised the efforts of people in the community to work together.

“Things like Genesis Genomics can happen here in Thunder Bay,” he said, added that he hopes the existence and progress of his company will eliminate the notion that Thunder Bay is not a place for a biotechnology company.

Mitchell says the company, along with the new Thunder Bay Regional Hospital, set to open next year, and the establishment of the northern medical school in the future “will create the synergy needed to advance an emerging bio-tech cluster in northwestern Ontario.”

Fort William First Nation also received a cheque in the amount of $515,932 . Of the total, $450,000 will be used for an environmental cleanup on land previously owned by Canadian National Railway, which was returned to the First Nation in 1999.The site remediation will pave the way for a new industrial park and sawmill. Also, $65,932 will be applied towards an entrepreneurial training program.

“By assisting the Fort William First Nation with this environmental cleanup, the Government of Canada is contributing to infrastructure that is essential to economic development, starting with the new Bowater sawmill, in this community,” said Mitchell.

Fort William First Nation has signed a 10-year agreement with Bowater who will become the anchor tenant in the 225-hectare industrial park with the construction of the new sawmill.

“It is estimated that over 150 new jobs can be created and that hopefully 30 percent will be First Nations jobs,” says Mitchell. “Beyond the direct jobs, this is an important economic development initiative for Fort William

First Nations since it has the rights to any secondary manufacturing of the sawmill’s products.” In order to encourage entrepreneurship, Fort William First Nation has started a community equity investment fund to provide startup funding for business development. The First Nations’s entrepreneurial training program will consist of a series of online, self-taught computer-based modules to provide business plan blueprints.

“We are grateful for this announcement as we would not be able to proceed with these projects without FedNor assistance,” said Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins.




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