Dalhousie University brings innovative ideas from the lab into the real world

See original article in LINK Magazine
Every year brilliant discoveries are made in Dalhousie University’s research labs but without commercialization support many of those discoveries may never lead to potential social or economic benefits. The Industry Liaison and Innovation (ILI) Office, which is the business development arm of the university, is working to get those discoveries out of the labs and into the real world.
“We work to unite talented researchers with local and international companies to help them grow their business and become more competitive,” says Stephen Hartlen, assistant Vice-President of industry relations at Dalhousie and Executive Director of Industry Liaison and Innovation.
One of those unions was made when the ILI office began to work with Diagnostic Radiology Professor, Dr. Daniel Boyd and Dr. Bob Abraham an Interventional Radiologist. The office saw commercial potential in their research ideas and encouraged them to launch the company known today as ABK BioMedical.
Another success story came from Agada Biosciences, who reached out to the ILI office to investigate the prospects of transplanting their company from Washington, DC to Nova Scotia. ILI was pivotal in demonstrating the tremendous support programs for Nova Scotia life sciences companies to help ensure their success, Agada moved to Nova Scotia in 2013. Agada now employs numerous Dalhousie graduates and has extensive partnerships within the Faculty of Medicine.
The commercialization of research discoveries in Nova Scotia is an important financial boost to the region’s economy. With Dalhousie poised as the largest research enterprise in Atlantic Canada and the ILI office facilitating meaningful industry collaborations, more companies like ABK are being launched. The economic and social benefits are far reaching and include the attraction of big industry, investment, start-up formation, job creation and further contributions to research and development in the region.
The office is also a valuable asset to the business community through the transfer of knowledge and technology from the university into the hands of industry. Companies not only benefit from the collaborative facilitation and guidance of the ILI office but can also access various funding initiatives as well.
“We’re proud to be part of the innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada and will continue to foster meaningful collaborations with industry,” says Hartlen.

ABK BioMedical – From a Post-It Note to a Prototype

See original article in LINK Magazine
Diagnostic Radiology Professor, Dr. Daniel Boyd had just moved from the Republic of Ireland when he walked into Dalhousie’s Industry Liaison and Innovation Office to discuss an innovative idea he had to develop an X-ray visible technology in the treatment of cancerous tumors. In an ironic twist of fate, Dr. Bob Abraham an Interventional Radiologist was looking for a partner to develop that same technology. The connection between the two was soon made and a third person, Dalhousie Scientist, Sharon Kehoe was brought into the fold to start the company known today as ABK BioMedical (A = Abraham, B = Boyd, K = Kehoe).
Excited about the potential to impact the cancer market they sought out funding opportunities to develop their new technology. In the fall of 2011 they entered The BioInnovation Challenge, an investment competition organized by BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association with the potential to win $30,000 in seed funding and advisory services. They pitched a compelling product they called OccluRad, which involved tiny x-ray visible bio-compatible glass beads used to treat uterine fibroids, or benign tumors in a woman’s uterus.
Today doctors are treating this condition by introducing particles through a blood vessel, which targets the tumors and causes them to shrink. The problem with today’s technology is that the particles are invisible to X-ray, meaning doctors can’t personalize the treatment to optimize the patients’ healthcare. This problem provided the team at ABK BioMedical an opportunity to improve on that treatment process with x-ray visible beads that would increase the effectiveness of the patients’ procedure.
ABK Biomedical’s development of OccluRad particles in the treatment of fibroid tumors, was deemed the most attractive for investment by the panel of judges. Their compelling product pitch would win them The BioInnovation Challenge, which was in its inaugural year. Through the support of the competition they were able to incorporate their business and invest further into research and development. The experience would also open new doors for investment opportunities that would help them build a strong platform to bring their product to market. Today the company has three products in development and are planning to launch them in Europe and the U.S in 2016.

How BioMedica Reached a 50/50 Gender Balance Without Trying

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BioMedica Diagnostics, a Canadian research and in-vitro-diagnostic solutions company based in Windsor Nova Scotia, has set out to do one thing: “help people live better lives.” This is the approach BioMedica takes with everything they do – from the development of its diagnostic patient-care technologies and solutions, all the way to its collaborative relationships with employees and partners.
When Brian Jeffers took the wheel in 2014 as BioMedica’s new President and CEO, he purposely aimed to build an environment that would attract and retain the best talent. He envisioned a high-performance company culture that enabled individuals to thrive under the concepts of empowerment and accountability. One such individual who understood and bought into the idea of a high-performance culture, and joined BioMedica in an essential role is Sheri Fitzpatrick-Poulain, Director of Commercial Operations.
Together Jeffers and Fitzpatrick-Poulain are building a leadership team of top talent that just happens to be 50% women. This feat landed BioMedica in the spotlight for its approach to gender diversity at BioTalent Canada’s Connecting & Advancing Women in Biotechnology events. With an increased focus in achieving a 50/50 employee gender-balance across multiple sectors, including the Canadian parliament, one can’t help but ask, what lessons can be learned from BioMedica.
The answer is surprising. BioMedica didn’t set out to hire women. Their focus is on talent. “We aim to go after the best talent out there with no internal or external barriers,” said Jeffers. “We focus on someone’s capability as an individual and as a team player, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity.”
Do as you say
BioMedica’s vision of “helping people live better lives” is reflected in the way the company interacts with its team. Fitzpatrick-Poulain said, “we are driven to make the company more successful and in turn are given real workplace flexibility.” Team members can work from home across the country, a benefit that is appreciated companywide.  For example, the option to work from home during inclement weather allows everyone on the team to stay safe and focused on their jobs without worrying about issues like childcare and unsafe road conditions. In turn, BioMedica gains an engaged and productive team focused on achieving the objectives that have been set.
Reject artificial harmony
Employees are empowered to take initiative and lead. BioMedica has created an environment where it is safe to disagree and have spirited debates with the objective of getting things right. Office politics and artificial harmony are rejected; instead the focus is on obtaining different perspectives to reach better outcomes for patients and partners alike.
Groom to grow
BioMedica believes in grooming talent to propel the company forward, such as in the case of Fitzpatrick-Poulain, “whose next step in her career is definitely in a President’s role,” said Jeffers.  There is a focus on fostering leadership and team building skills, and everyone is given the opportunity to take on more responsibilities and new challenges within the objectives set out. Accountability is a strong pillar of leadership, and rather than point-and-blame, team members are encouraged to take ownership of their mistakes, and come up with solutions. In addition to traditional skills training, team members are actively mentored in every phase of their careers, with the goal of grooming them to grow into leadership positions.
BioMedica understands that its current and future success as a company relies heavily on attracting top talent and creating an environment where they can grow and be empowered to realize their full potential.
Jeffers has a simple answer to the attention BioMedica is getting, “In building our team, we go after the best talent – period. Gender balance is a byproduct of our approach.”
Newsletter Issue:
HR Microscope February 2016