Recent News

March 15th 2022

Ready2Launch Seeks Applicants

The accelerator program uses Disciplined Entrepreneurship methodology to help founders get ready to launch their ventures

Applications are open for the third cohort of the Ready2Launchaccelerator. This 12-week virtual program will help participants take their businesses from validating their idea to launch their business. It is open to undergraduate or graduate students, researchers, and recent grads from any Atlantic Canadian post-secondary academic institution.

Led by Dalhousie University and the I-INC Network, Ready2Launch is part of a suite of programs offered through Dal Innovates that help deliver innovation and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes to students, faculty, and alumni. Since Ready2Launch launched in 2020, a total of 20 teams have participated and have gone on to raise more than $2.8 million in funding and grants. The teams have also advanced into next stage accelerators such as Creative Destruction Lab and Innovacorp’s Accelerate.

“This program is an outstanding opportunity for founders to validate their business model and approach customers and investors with confidence. With facilitators from MIT, the participants are getting exposure and learning from the masters in the craft of innovation driven entrepreneurship to solve global problems” Spencer Giffin, Director – Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie, said in a statement.

The program uses the Disciplined Entrepreneurship methodology developed by Bill Aulet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and provides weekly workshops facilitated by experts from MIT. Weekly clinics cover crucial founder skills such as Managing Founder Dynamics, Corporate Law, Sales Process, Pitching, and others. Each team will receive up to $15,000, mentorship from a designated industry expert, and feedback from a simulated Board of Directors. Resilience training and peer presentation days will round out the program. At the conclusion of the program, teams will compete in a pitch competition for $10,000 in prizes.

The deadline for applications is April 15, 2022. The program will run from June 6, 2022 to August 26, 2022 with the pitch day on September 22, 2022. More information and the application form can be accessed here.

The program is supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Brigus Capital, Build Ventures, Christopher Huskilson, and Morrison Park Advisors.

 

About Dalhousie University: 

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $181 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identified as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.

About Ready2Launch 

Ready2Launch supports start-up teams who have identified a customer opportunity from the Lab2Market program in building the capacity they need to identify a viable business model, launch their venture, and reach their next developmental milestone. I-INC will offer a Ready2Launch summer accelerator for students and researchers across Canada with the goal of launching sustainable and scalable companies within 6 months of completing the program. Learn more here.

About I-INC

The Innovation + Impact Network of Canada (I-INC) accelerates and drives research commercialization outcomes across Canada’s universities through entrepreneurship and innovation training and venture-focused experiential programs designed specifically for scientific researchers. I-INC’s programs build on the existing incubator and accelerator ecosystem, addressing the specific needs of researchers and students developing research-based and deep-tech ventures. I-INC originated in 2014 when Ryerson, Simon Fraser and Ontario Tech universities were supported by the Canada Accelerator Incubator Program (CAIP) and delivered by the National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). Following the CAIP program, the network expanded and focused its attention on the acceleration of Canadian university research from the lab to market and impact in Canada. Learn more at here.

 

Media contact:

Andrew Riley

Manager | Communications

VP Research and Innovation

902-456-7904

Andrew.riley@dal.ca

 

Joe Krawczyk

Coordinator for Dal Innovates

Dalhousie University

438-883-6770

Joe.k@dal.ca


February 1st 2022:

Dalhousie’s next Lab2Market cohort dedicated to supporting 11 women-led teams from across Canada

Dalhousie University is pleased to announce the launch of Lab2Market (L2M) Halifax Winter 2022 cohort, which will include 11 researchers from 5 universities across Canada. This cohort is focused on supporting women in research with the mentors, facilitators and entrepreneurial leads all being leading women in their fields. The teams are conducting research on diverse topics such as automated circuitry design, fatigue management, ocean waste, and pharmaceutical development.

The 16-week program will equip graduate and post-doctorate researchers with the skills required to assess the commercial opportunity for their research and extend it beyond the doors of university laboratories. Teams will focus on validating their ideas through customer discovery by identifying a problem with commercial value that they can solve.

“It is great to see our Lab2Market program emphasizing support for the entrepreneurial ambitions of women researchers,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, Vice President, Research and Innovation at Dalhousie University. “There is a significant disparity between the number of women graduate students in Atlantic Canada’s post-secondary institutions and the number that go on to start enterprises based on their innovations. This is an important step in helping to close that gap.”

While Statistics Canada notes that 60 per cent of Atlantic Canada’s graduate students are women, just 36 per cent of Lab2Market’s past participants have been women. Meanwhile, only 14 per cent of new start-ups in Atlantic Canada are women-led, and less than 4 per cent of all venture capital goes to women-led companies according to Entrevestor’s Atlantic Canada Startup Data 2020. Through this Lab2Market women-in-research cohort, Dal Innovates aims to empower a new generation of women leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists.

Participants will be provided with hands-on support, access to mentorship, a tailored curriculum, and the opportunity to receive $15,000.00 in funding. Each research team includes three participants: the graduate student or post-doctorate fellow, the applicant’s supervisor or primary investigator, and an industry mentor from a related business sector.

Lisa Chen of Dalhousie University is participating in Lab2Market and is looking forward to gaining the entrepreneurship skills needed to improve her technology. Chen is working on a platform that utilizes citizen science to track and map ghost fishing gear in the ocean.

“As a Divemaster and marine biologist, I have had the luxury to dive into some of the most remote places on the planet. However, ghost fishing gear continued to be a common denominator in all these sites. It is heartbreaking to see all these animals that I swim with struggling for their lives while my team and I desperately cut and remove the nets knowing that we are too late. As such, I am inspired to develop a solution that can help mitigate and remove these kill traps before more animals die from them.”

Participating teams stem from Dalhousie University, Memorial University, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, and Saint Mary’s University.

The program is based on the successful I-Corps program in the United States, and the ICURe program in the United Kingdom. Led by Dalhousie University, Ryerson University, Memorial University, and University of Manitoba, funding to participating teams is provided with support from the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), Mitacs as well as the Ocean Startup Project.

Lab2Market is one of a suite of offerings from Dal Innovates that help deliver innovation and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes to students. Teams can go on to participate in the Ready2Launch accelerator, which is an intensive 3-month pre-accelerator to help teams advance and spin-out new start-ups.

To date, Lab2Market has graduated 120 teams from cohorts across Halifax, Toronto, St. John’s and Winnipeg. Interested future applicants can find more information at lab2market.ca.

 

The Teams: 

Technology University Team
Mobile Robot platform design for performing inspection procedures on pipelines, automobiles, and infrastructures in extreme environmental conditions. University of Alberta Misha Afaq

Dr. Ahmad Rafiq

A network to transform how occupational therapists around the world support people to live well with severe and chronic fatigue. Dalhousie University Michelle Lehman

Dr. Tanya Packer

An electronic design automation tool to retarget analog design from older technologies to advanced ones. Memorial University of Newfoundland Mehrnaz Ahmadi

Dr. Lihong Zhang

Privacy and Security of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices within their computational constraints. Memorial University of Newfoundland Sidra Anwar

Dr. Jonathan Anderson

Development of vegan preclinical testing techniques using in vitro human cells to test drug toxicity. Memorial University of Newfoundland Yanitza Trosel

Dr. Valerie Booth

Dr. Anand Yethiraj

Safety intervention for dating app-facilitated sexualized violence. Dalhousie University Nicole Doria

Dr. Alice Aiken

A platform that utilizes citizen science to track and map ghost fishing gear in the ocean. Dalhousie University Lisa Chen

Dr. Boris Worm

Topical antimicrobial product based on traditional medicinal plants to combat antimicrobial resistance. Saint Mary’s University Julie Anne Dayrit

Dr. Clarissa Sit

Phase I of Development of a tele-health rehabilitation system to improve patients’ adherence and enable remote rehabilitation University of Toronto Dr. Somayeh Norouzi Ghazbi

Dr. Sander Hitzig

Dr. Jan Andrysek

Dr. Roger Goldstein

Developing a consumer hair care product for afro-textured hair using natural raw materials Dalhousie University Mmasinachi Atansi

Dr. Alison Thompson

A novel nutritional feed additive using guanidinoacetate and methionine for the poultry industry; to improve feed stability, growth performance, and meat quality Memorial University of Newfoundland Mahesha Asiriwardhana

Dr. Robert Bertolo

 

About Dalhousie University:

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $194 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identified as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.

About Lab2Market
Lab2Market supports researchers who foresee impact and potential commercial value in their deep tech research, by providing opportunities and exposure to help commercialize their intellectual property. The program is developed and led by Dalhousie University, Memorial University, University of Manitoba, and Ryerson University, and leverages the national I-INC network. Learn more at www.lab2market.ca.

About Ready2Launch

Ready2Launch supports start-up teams who have identified a customer opportunity from the Lab2Market program in building the capacity they need to identify a viable business model, launch their venture, and reach their next developmental milestone. I-INC will offer a Ready2Launch summer accelerator for students and researchers across Canada with the goal of launching sustainable and scalable companies within 6 months of completing the program. Learn more at https://ready2launch.ca/.

About I-INC
The Incubate Innovate Network of Canada (I-INC) is a pan-Canadian, internationally connected network of high-performance university-linked accelerators and incubators. I-INC creates an ecosystem for the efficient commercialization of university-based and science and technology-enabled innovation. Founded in 2014, the network has expanded to include 13 universities across Canada. Learn more at www.iincanada.ca.

 

Media contacts:

Andrew Riley
Manager | Communications
VP Research and Innovation
902-456-7904
Andrew.riley@dal.ca

Joe Krawczyk
Coordinator for Dal Innovates
Dalhousie University
438-883-6770
Joe.k@dal.ca


October 6th 2021:

Pivoting from Smart Shirts to Smart Shoes 

Rez Ghasemi is an aspiring young entrepreneur who happens to have exceptional skills in engineering. As a little boy growing up in Hamedan, Iran, Rez was always taking apart his toys, including his big brother’s trains, to see how they worked. After high school he completed a degree in chemical engineering and moved to Tehran to work as a sales engineer. 

After gaining some industry experience, Rez decided to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He started up a polymer additive company and soon discovered the market opportunities in Iran were limited. This was the push Rez needed to broaden his horizons. “I came to Canada to study in a world-class lab and develop new tech-based products for international markets,” he says. 

Rez is now pursing a Master’s degree at Dalhousie University. While investigating the properties of nanomaterials, Rez and his supervisor, Dr. Ghada Koleilat, got the idea to develop a wearable biosensor to monitor vital signs. Monitoring vital signs, like heart rate, can be valuable indicators for early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.  

Demand for New Wearable Sensors for Vitals Monitoring 

Today, most heart rate monitoring is done in a clinic using an electrocardiogram (ECG). But for the ECG to operate effectively, gel electrodes must be stuck to the body at certain locations. This procedure is both time consuming and limits the movements of the users. “Imagine the benefit of someone having continuous vitals monitoring without having to go to a clinic or hospital,” says Ghasemi.  

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth usage and demand for wearable biosensors has surged. Wearable sensors enable healthcare professionals to safely monitor vitals remotely, so the timing for developing a health-monitoring smart shirt is ideal.  

Applying to Dal Innovates and Emera ideaHub  

Not wanting to waste any time, Rez and Dr. Koleilat, named their company AvisensX and applied to both Dal Innovates’ Lab2Market and Emera ideaHUB’s Design2BUILD programs.  

The wearable sensors Rez and his team are developing are not bulky electrodes. Their sensors are made of nanomaterials that are 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. This means AvisensX has the advantage of seamlessly weaving in an array of vital sign sensors capable of tracking heart rate, body temperature, motion, and more.  

“We wanted to develop a smart shirt that meets the requirements of the user, in terms of comfort and measurement accuracy,” says Ghasemi. But before going too far down the product development path, the Lab2Market program helped Rez and his team conduct a customer discovery.  

Engaging with Experts  

“My Lab2Market facilitator, Wendy Voorman, and mentor, Marc St-Onge, were fantastic,” says Ghasemi. “They gave me advice on how to approach top tier people at companies and how to structure our company.”  

While the customer discovery validated their idea that a vitals-tracking smart shirt could be a very effective tool for medical diagnosis and treatment, “We also learned that not everyone wants to wear a tight t-shirt,” says Ghasemi 

The industry experts cautioned Rez against developing a smart shirt as AvisensX’s first product. While the quality and accuracy of their biosensors would surpass medical standards, the road to gaining regulatory approval and having their smart shirt classified as a medical device for diagnostic purposes is a long one. 

Smart Footwear: A Faster First Step 

Rez and his co-founder Dr. Koleilat realized, as more and more people want to track their own health and fitness, there is a bigger market opportunity. “We made the decision to pivot from a smart shirt to smart footwear, focusing on wellness rather than healthcare,” says Ghasemi. By focusing on a smart shoe designed to track health and wellness data rather than to diagnose or treat a medical condition, AvisensX would potentially be generating revenue sooner.  

“Where I’m from, there’s an old saying, ‘You can’t hold two watermelons in one hand,’ meaning we will focus on developing footwear as our first product but plan to develop a smart shirt in the future.” 

While Dal Innovates’ Lab2Market helped the AvisensX team find the best possible market for their smart wearable tech, the Design2BUILD program was essential for their product development. “The BUILD program connected me with experienced hardware developers and helped me learn how to build a hardware company,” he says.  

The Emera ideaHub helped, Rez design sensor prototypes that could be integrated into a shoe. The smart shoe sensors would feed into a data centre for real-time analysis to improve wellness. “Because our technology has broad applications, we can develop sensors with specific features to track a range of activities,” says Ghasemi. “Athletes, for example may be looking to make tiny improvements to give them a competitive edge.”  

Market Potential for Wellness 

In completing Ready2Launch and Design2BUILD programs, AvisensX’s is poised for growth. The company’s unique, high-performance, nanosensors can be applied to a large surface area at low cost, making them an ideal partner for companies looking to provide affordable smart wearables for health and wellness.  

Growth in the smart wearables sector is being driven by the likes of Apple, Adidas, Nike, and Samsung.  The wearable tech market is expected to reach $70 billion in 2025, according to market research firm IDTechEx. 

“There are big things, ground breaking things ahead,” says Ghasemi.  Since being interviewed, Rez and the AvisensX team have been selected to participate in Innovacorp’s Accelerate program to further develop their smart footwear.  

You can check out their website at www.Avisens.tech. Lab2Market applications for the 2022 Winter cohort are also open – apply at lab2market.ca/apply by October 18th. 

 


September 23, 2021:

Dalhousie University Announces Winners of the Ready2Launch Pitch Day

(Halifax, NS) – Dalhousie University is pleased to announce the winners of the Ready2Launch Pitch Day. Ready2Launch is a three-month summer accelerator for early-stage startups. The 2021 program concluded on September 9, with nine teams competing for a chance to win three cash prizes.

During Pitch Day, the graduating teams presented their ventures to a panel of judges. In first place was Drinkable Water Solutions, winning $5,000. Drinkable is a CleanTech company building a handheld water testing device. The $3,000 second place prize went to Formula Consulting Inc, who are developing an algorithm to increase efficiency in heavy civil construction. Finally, HOLLO medical won the $2,000 People’s Choice Award. They are developing a pocket-sized holding chamber for inhaler users.

“We came into Ready2Launch at a pivotal time in our team’s growth and needed guidance on our market analysis, business model, and primary research”, says Matthew Mizzi, CEO of Drinkable, “R2L exceeded our expectations with quality content, impressive organization, excellent communication and an incredible network. We couldn’t be happier with our progress during the program.”

The program brought in experts from the local and national innovation ecosystems as mentors, board members, and Pitch Day judges. The judging panel was made up of Brent Walker, Managing Director at Morrison Park Advisors; Patrick Keefe, General Partner at BUILD Ventures; Dr. Jennifer Bain, Associate Vice-President Research at Dalhousie University; Amanda Tarr, Manager of Programs and Acceleration at InnovaCorp; and Jolene Reid, Investment Principal at Sandpiper Ventures.

“We were thrilled to have the support of numerous players in the Atlantic innovation ecosystem throughout the Ready2Launch program”, says Spencer Giffin, Associate Director of Commercialization & Startups at Dalhousiefrom Pitch Day judges to volunteer board members and mentors, their expertise added tremendous value to the teams. We are excited to see how the relationships formed in Ready2Launch continue to grow as the ventures progress.”

Participating teams represented Dalhousie University, including the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, Acadia University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint Mary’s University and the University of Prince Edward Island, with Morrison Park Advisors, and Build Ventures providing funding and advisory support to teams. One-third of cohort participants previously participated in the Lab2Market program, which is a precursor to Ready2Launch.

About Dalhousie University:

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $194 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identified as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.


August 31st, 2021:

Dalhousie University’s Lab2Market Program Prioritizes Commercialization Growth for Women in Research

(Halifax, NS) Applications for the Winter 2022 Lab2Market Halifax cohort are now open. The 16-week program will equip graduate and post-doctorate researchers with the skills required to assess the commercial opportunity for their research and translate it beyond the doors of university laboratories.

Led by Dalhousie University and the I-INC Network, Lab2Market is part of a suite of programs offered through Dal Innovates that help deliver innovation and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes to students, faculty, and alumni. Participating teams in Lab2Market’s Halifax cohort are also provided support from Mitacs and Springboard Atlantic.

In addition to the program’s curriculum, the Winter 2022 cohort will offer a stream focused on developing women in research with tailored program delivery and mentorship. Applications will be open to all Atlantic Canadian graduate students, PhD’s, and post-doctorates, with priority given to women in research.

“At Lab2Market, we work with students and academics to help them better understand the commercial potential of their research,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, Vice President, Research and Innovation at Dalhousie University. “We know that in Atlantic Canada, just 14 percent of startups are female-led, this is disproportionate to the number of women in graduate programs who have ideas that are suitable for commercialization. Dal Innovate’s Lab2Market program is intended to help bridge this gap.”

Teams will consist of three members, a student in the role of Entrepreneurial Lead, an academic supervisor in the role of Technical Lead and an Industry Mentor, who will work together to validate their ideas through customer discovery to find commercial value in market, supported by $15,000 in funding.

The Winter 2022 Program kicks off on February 1, 2022.  Interested applicants from Atlantic Canada are invited to apply at lab2market.ca/apply before October 18, 2021.

About Lab2Market

Lab2Market supports researchers who foresee impact and potential commercial value in their deep tech research, by providing opportunities and exposure to help commercialize their intellectual property. The program is developed and led by Dalhousie University, Memorial University, the University of Manitoba and Ryerson University, and leverages the national I-INC network. Learn more at www.lab2market.ca.

About Dalhousie University

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $194 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identified as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.


June 17th, 2021:

Pivoting to an Ocean of Opportunity  

Tharindu-Senadheera-Ph.D.-2021At a seafood processing plant, overlooking colourful fishing boats, Tharindu Senadheera, a PhD student at Memorial University, holds a squishy, unassuming creature that might just be the key to unlocking a multibillion-dollar ocean industry.  

Even though Tharindu grew up in Sri Lanka, an island country surrounded by ocean, she, like most of us, assumed the sea cucumber was a plant. “I thought it was a vegetable, like seaweed,” said Senadheera. The sea cucumber is a slimy, tubular invertebrate that lives on the ocean floor.   

Big Appetite for Sea Cucumbers in Asia  

Unfamiliar to Canadian consumers, sea cucumbers are highly prized in Asian countries. Demand from Asian markets is estimated to be $60 million a year and growing. In China, the sea cucumber’s meaty muscle bands and dried body walls are considered a delicacy. They are also believed to have healing properties, treating ailments from arthritis to impotency.  

While these wild Atlantic sea cucumbers fetch about $60 per pound after processing, close to 50 per cent of the animal’s gut material is being discarded as a waste byproduct or used as fertilizers. This is where Tharindu saw opportunity. “There is so much waste in food processing,” said Senadheera. “I’ve always been passionate about using technology to maximize our precious food resources.”  

Can Sea Cucumbers Fight Wrinkles? 

Using her expertise in food chemistry, Tharindu set out to find a way to upgrade these byproducts. Working alongside her supervisors, Dr. Deepika Dave and Dr. Fereidoon Shahidi, at the Maritime Institute’s Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development, she began analysing the bioactive properties of the little known North Atlantic sea cucumber.  

The researchers discovered a range of novel compounds, including collagen, that could become value-added ingredients to nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and cosmeceutical products. “When I learned that collagen makes up more than 70 per cent of the sea cucumber’s body wall, I began to focus on whether this collagen could be used in anti-aging creams,” said Senadheera.  

Collagen is a protein made up of peptide molecules, and is an essential building block for healthier skin. The benefits of using a marine collagen, over bovine or pork collagen, is the sea cucumber’s peptide molecules are smaller, making them slightly more absorbable. There are also many consumers who are looking for alternatives to using beef or pork products. 

Applying to Dal Innovates – Path2Innovation and Lab2Market  

Armed with the knowledge of the unique bioactive properties of the North Atlantic sea cucumber, Tharindu applied to Dal Innovates’ Path2Innovation and Lab2Market programs. “With the sea cucumber’s high levels of collagen, I wanted to explore the untapped cosmeceutical opportunities.”   

It is estimated the burgeoning cosmeceuticals market will reach US$81 billion by 2027.  As such, major cosmetic companies — including L’Oréal, P&G, Shiseido, and Clarins — are very interested in cosmeceutical products with bioactive ingredients.  

Joining Tharindu in her entrepreneurial pursuit were Dr. Dave and her mentor, Dr. Ellen Crumley. This dynamic team had a single-minded focus, to find out if the cosmeceutical market would be interested in using North Atlantic sea cucumber collagen in their products.  

Thumbs Down from Cosmetic Companies 

As part of her customer discovery, Tharindu contacted cosmetic companies from Australia, China, France, and the United States to pitch the use of sea cucumber collagen. “Unfortunately, they told me the volume of collagen that could be extracted from a sea cucumber harvest is low compared to what can be extracted from cow hides and pig skins,” said Senadheera. Tharindu and her team quickly realized, even after scaling up the collagen extraction process, they wouldn’t meet the commercial quantities required by a cosmetics company.   

Feeling dejected, Dal Innovates coordinators, Mike Carew and Spencer Giffin, encouraged them not to give up. With their guidance, Tharindu adjusted her customer discovery. She speculated, “Maybe other bioactive sea cucumber compounds could be a viable and natural substitute for the synthetic products currently on the market?”  

Pivoting to Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Opportunities 

In addition to collagen, the team identified a range of valuable compounds – phenols, flavonoids, and chondroitin sulfate – with diverse medicinal functions including anticancer, antioxidant, antihypertensive, and anti-inflammatory properties. These novel compounds could be the building blocks for new drugs or functional foods, both of which are multibillion-dollar industries.   

More customer discovery work was needed to gauge the interest of the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Dal Innovates instructors Gillian McCrae and Permjot Valia helped Tharindu reach out to professionals from around the world through LinkedIn and Facebook. “Initially, I was reluctant to conduct interviews, but the people I spoke to were open to helping me as a student. They even gave me referrals.” 

In explaining the bioactive properties of the sea cucumber, Tharindu learned that industry was very interested in developing natural, marine-based products. “They even asked us to conduct in vitro studies to see if we could grow the bioactive molecules from cell cultures in our lab,” she said.  

Dal Innovates Motivates 

“As a scientist, I’m trained to narrow my path and focus my discoveries on specific bioactive properties,” said Senadheera. “In just three months, Dal Innovates taught me to expand my focus and look at what the real-world needs.”  

Tharindu has also broadened her career focus. She has moved to Toronto and is looking for post-doctoral opportunities in industry. “I feel I have a lot to offer industry,” she said. “The boundaries are limitless.”   

The Key to Getting a Slice of Multibillion-Dollar Industries 

Researchers at the Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development plan to partner with sea cucumber processors to develop scaled-up extraction procedures. Not only does recovering high-value compounds from byproducts result in added revenue for a processor, it offers a solution for their waste disposal too.  

 Tharindu is thrilled with the progress she and her team have made. “We are taking another step closer to using all parts of the sea cucumber and optimizing our valuable marine resources,” she said. 

 The unique bioactive properties of the North Atlantic sea cucumber could also pave the way for new cancer treatments or health food supplements. “It not clear whether we’re going to be a supplier of raw materials or whether we will produce a product for resale,” said Senadheera.  

 What Tharindu is sure of is, in order to get a slice of these multibillion-dollar industries, collaboration will be the key. “I’ve learned to think outside the box, understand what potential customers need, and then figure out what we could provide.” 

For the downloadable version of this story, click here.

About Lab2Market

The Lab2Market Program is a 16-week program to help researchers validate their ideas with the purpose of finding business/commercial value. The program is supported by the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Dalhousie University and Mitacs, and is delivered by Dal Innovates. Lab2Market is based on similar programs that have found success in other parts of the world, but with a Canadian twist.


June 15th, 2021:

Meet Permjot Valia, Your Summer 2021 Path2Innovation Facilitator

Permjot Valia

Applications are now open for the Summer 2021 Path2Innovation program. In preparation, we caught up with Permjot Valia, an experienced investor, and dynamic leader in the start-up space. Permjot will be our facilitator for the program and is guaranteed to pique your interests on core subject matter and spark lively discussions with the group. You won’t want to miss the chance to learn the value of entrepreneurial thinking from a mind like Permjot.

 

Tell us a little bit about what brings you to Path2Innovation

I started investing in start-ups about 20 years ago. Through investing and a long career in working with start-ups, I’ve learned lots of lessons about the fundamentals that companies based on research, coming out of universities need to learn. I’m an Economist by background and sit on the board of some great companies in both Nova Scotia and in my place of birth, London. I’m the co-founder of Flight and Partners, a London based fund manager, with $50m under active management. I’ve worked with universities around the world, and I assure you, my passion and enjoyment for working in this space will become clear within the first 10 minutes of our meeting.

What do you enjoy most about facilitating the Path2Innovation program?

I love working with very smart people. I love working with people where I get to learn just as much as I am teaching. Path2Innovation allows me to do that. The inventions and ideas many of the participants are working on is simply awesome and very exciting to learn from. I also like the intense nature of the program. It enables great relationships to develop even over a medium like Zoom.

What topic do you most look forward to exploring with the Path2Innovation cohort?

I like the first topic which looks at the factors that can drive your idea to become successful. It starts everyone thinking about the big picture and where their idea fits in and how they can ‘pitch’ the idea as part of an answer to a macro trend.

In your experience, what does it take to be successful in the Path2Innovation program?

I hope to find individuals who approach the course with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new things. I try to make the course as interactive as possible and having a high level of engagement makes it great fun for everyone.

Path2Innovation is supported by the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and delivered by Dal Innovates. Applications for Path2Innovation are now open and will remain so until July 19th, 2021.

Apply now: https://dalinnovates.ca/programs/nnce/path2innovation/

 


June 8th, 2021:

Dalhousie University Announces Second Ready2Launch Cohort

Four participants from the Ready2Launch program are featured with the words Meet the Cohort.

Dal Innovates is excited to introduce you to our Summer 2021 Ready2Launch cohort. 12 teams with representation from each of the Atlantic provinces have been accepted to accelerate and refine their tech-enabled, research-driven ventures.

Read more: https://www.dal.ca/research/ResearchIntheNews/mediareleases.html


May 18th 2021:

One Team’s Story – Pivoting in Real-Time  

Sabiha Antora started her master’s program with a big dream, to help the world produce more food.  

As our global population continues to rise, the amount of food we produce falls alarmingly shortBy 2050 there will be nearly 10 billion people to feed. That means we have 29 more growing seasons to figure it out. 

While the scale of this challenge is epic, Sabiha and her pioneering team that includes Dr. Young Ki Chang and Ryan Cobb, want to be part of the solution.  

Helping Farmers with a Health Checkup for Crops  

Growing up in the farming town of Teligati, BangladeshSabiha saw first-hand how labour-intensive it was to manage crops. “My grandfathers and uncles spent long days in the fields growing paddy and vegetables, like spinach, squash and bitter gourds,” said Antora. 

“I wanted to develop something to take some stress off the farmers,” she saidRather than relying on manual labour to scout out areas in the field in need of fertilizer or pest control, Sabiha and her team felt that a drone could do the job faster and better.  

Using advancements in digital imaging and processingSabiha’s team proposed that drone could be engineered to scan and process data in real-time. They wanted to develop a lighting-fast system that could analyse a field and prescribe steps for the farmer to take to maintain healthy cropsIt would be like a health checkup for crops.   

Applying to Dal Innovates’ Lab2Market 

Working out of the robotics lab at Dalhousie University’s Agricultural CampusSabiha, Young and Ryanapplied to Dal Innovates’ Lab2Market program. “I had no idea about commercialization,” Antora said, “but I knew if we could help growers care for their crops quicker, we would be helping them to improve crop yields.” 

A key part of the Lab2Market program was customer discovery. While Sabiha excelled at market research, her instructors saw that she was avoiding contacting future customers directly. “I was afraid growers wouldn’t understand me because of my accent,” said Antora, “and that I wouldn’t find the right words.” 

Facing Her Fears 

To face her fearsDal Innovates instructors, Dr. Michael Carew and Permjot Valia suggested Sabiha start by contacting agriculture customers in Bangladesh. Of thBangladeshicontacts she said, “They gave me lots of ideas for how to relate to farmers in North America.  

Sabiha may have even landed a new jobAfter contacting the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, she hinted, “A senior scientist was so impressed by my dedication to developing digital agricultural systems that he offered me a research assistantship after I finish my master’s.”  

Pivoting from Farmers to Service Providers 

With new found confidence, Sabiha contacted farmers, CEOs of companies, agronomists and analysts. She and her team assumed their idea of crop assessment drone would be embraced by farmers. However, it wasn’t long before she felt the sting of rejection. “The feedback I got from farmers was negative,” said Antora. “The farmers said things like that’s too expensive, I don’t need that, and I won’t be able to run a drone.”   

Sabiha and her team had to shift their mindset. They had to redefine who would be interested in their technology. “I moved on to contacting service providers,” she said.  

Through this outreach she learned several companies were already processing images, but it was taking them a week to deliver an inspection report on field conditions. These companies were focused on automation. They wanted to have field analysis in real-time because certain crop diseases can destroy whole crop in a matter of days. “I now understood their pain, said Antora. 

How Many Acres of Farmland Can We Analyse?  

With a shared vision to help farmers produce more food, more sustainably at lower cost, Sabiha’s software aligns with the industry’s push toward automation. Equipment like self-driving tractors that work day and night is just the beginning.  

While Sabiha received a warmer reception from industry service providers, they weren’t really interested in their team’s drone hardware applications, like how the scanners worked. “The CEOs and company founders wanted to know about our system’s field level capabilities, like how large of an area can our system scan,” explained Antora.  

Dal Innovates Motivates 

“Lab2Market allowed me to refocus my research,” said Antora. “I’m now back in the lab and more motivated than ever because I can see what the market needs.”  

To stay a step ahead of the market, the research team is focused on designing software that pinpoints where a crop is under stress and delivers a prescriptive map in real-time. Having a prescription map frees up the grower’s time,” said Antora.  By caring for crops more quickly and precisely, she envisions farmers no longer needing to crop dust entire fields and instead, focusing on optimizing production. 

Feeding the World Starts with Optimizing One Field of Potatoes 

This summerSabiha and her team are planning to test their field assessment softwareCommercial farmer Scott Newcombe is keen to get a crop checkup on his potato field. “We’re hoping to scan his large field and compare the real-time processing of our data to our manual images,” she said. “We will also provide Scott with a prescription map and a productivity estimate of what his crops will yield.”  

Will this new field assessment software be integrated into tractors or dronesSabiha’s not sure which is the better fit. That’s something for manufactures like John Deere or Kubota to decide. What she does know is that Lab2Market helped her understand the value of her crop assessment system and that she’s doing her part to help farmers get ready to feed the world 

For a downloadable version of this story, click here.

About Lab2Market

The Lab2Market Program is a 16-week program to help researchers validate their ideas with the purpose of finding business/commercial value. The program is supported by the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Dalhousie University and Mitacs, and is delivered by Dal Innovates. Lab2Market is based on similar programs that have found success in other parts of the world, but with a Canadian twist.


May 11th 2021:

Halifax’s Winter 2021 Lab2Market Cohort by the Numbers

Halifax’s Winter 2021 Lab2Market cohort has had a busy 16-weeks. 22 research teams from 10 universities were invited to join the program to validate their ideas through customer discovery with the purpose of finding business or commercial value. Congratulations to the graduates, we look forward to following your success as you move on to incubators and accelerators (like Ready2Launch), complete research initiatives and further develop your company.

Learn more about the Halifax’s Winter 2021 Lab2Market cohort by the numbers:

About Dalhousie University:

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $181 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identified as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.

About Lab2Market:

Lab2Market supports researchers who foresee impact and potential commercial value in their deep tech research, by providing opportunities and exposure to help commercialize their intellectual property. The program is developed and led by Dalhousie University, Memorial University, and Ryerson University, and leverages the national I-INC network. Learn more at www.lab2market.ca.