Public Release: 

Canada's youth bring real-life science innovations to life

9 regional winners compete at National Research Council, Ottawa, in final competition of Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada

Bioscience Education Canada

After months of preparation, research and collaboration with top university mentors, an elite group of 13 high school whiz kids from across the country will be in Ottawa May 7-8 competing for Canada's ultimate student biotech science prizes in the 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC).

The National SBCC Awards ceremony will be held Tuesday May 8, 1 pm EDT, at the National Research Council Headquarters, Ottawa, with The Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources Skills Development Canada as keynote speaker.

In total, judges chose nine cutting-edge biotechnology research projects from 192 projects presented by almost 250 high school and CEGEP students across Canada. Now in its 19th year, the SBCC gives young scientists access to university labs and academic mentors, encouraging the pursuit of future studies and careers in the country's fast-growing biotechnology sector.

"Each year, we are impressed by the students' innovative approaches to a wide variety of biotechnology challenges in health care, agriculture, food production and the environment," said Rick Levick, Executive Director, Bioscience Education Canada, "The Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada offers them the opportunity to advance their ideas with the support of mentors, a unique feature of this program. It's our aspiration that this collaboration between industry, government and education will stimulate commercialisation in the biotechnology industry."

This year's regional finalists:

British Columbia: Miranda Wang, 18, and Jeanny Yao, 17, both Grade 12, Magee Secondary School, Vancouver, identified soil bacteria from the Fraser River estuary that naturally break down phthalates, a fossil fuel-based additive found in some plastics. View the project profile here:

Alberta: Nikola Viktorov and Andy Le, 16, Grade 11, from Old Scona Academic High School, Edmonton, lit a potential path to the development of drugs that more effectively target diseased cells, creating a tool to help monitor the death of cells in lymphoma cancer.View the project profile here:

Saskatchewan: Rui (REE) Song, 17s, Grade 11, from Walter Murray Collegiate, Saskatoon, developed new scientific insights into the potential creation of a more nutritious lentil. View the project profile here:

Manitoba: Ella Thomson, 16, Grade 11, Balmoral Hall School, Winnipeg, genetically modified a common soil bacteria to produce 36% more volume of the bio-ingredient used to make eco-friendly plastic. View the project profile here:

South Western Ontario: Janelle Tam, 16, Grade 12, from Waterloo Collegiate Institute discovered that a versatile nano-particle in trees is a powerful anti-aging, health-promoting antioxidant -- better in some respects than vitamin C or E. View the project profile here:

Greater Toronto: Alexander Tigert and Zelun (Daniel) Zhang, both 17, Grade 12, Northern Secondary School, used genetically-modified Baker's yeast to create a novel environment for testing the effects drug treatments for depression and anxiety. View the project profile here:

Eastern Ontario: Romina Hassanzadeh, 17, Grade 12, All Saints Catholic High School, Kanata, puzzled out a new insight into the workings of a cancer-fighting drug, a discovery that could one day impact medical approaches to cancer treatment. View the regional project profile here:

Quebec: Nivatha Balendra, 16, Grade 11, from Royal West Academy, Montreal, found Isopropanol to be the better alcohol to use in hand sanitizers because it kills more bacteria and fewer skin cells than ethanol, the more common ingredient in such products. View the project profile here:

Atlantic Region: Jared Trask, 17 and Kaitlyn Stockley, 16, Grade 11 students at Holy Spirit High School, Conception Bay West, NF, used a centrifuge, chemicals and high frequency sound waves to extract a bio-fuel oil from local-obtained cold environment algae. View the project profile here:

The project finalists will be judged Monday May 7 at the Ottawa headquarters of the National Research Council by a panel of pre-eminent Canadian scientists:

Dr. Luis Barreto (Chief Judge), Senior Advisor Vaccine Program, Human Health and Therapeutics, National Research Council Canada, and ex-Vice President, Immunization and Science Policy, Sanofi Pasteur Limited; Dr. Jim Richards, Director General, Vaccine Program, Human Health and Therapeutics, National Research Council Canada; Dr. Alain Beaudet, President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Dr. Ron Pearlman, Associate Scientific Director, The Gairdner Foundation; and Dr. Alison Symington, Vice President, Outreach, Ontario Genomics Institute.

The judge's panel also includes Toronto's Marshall Zhang, 18, the 2011 national SBCC first prize winner, now a Grade 12 student at Richmond Hill Collegiate. Last year he used a Canadian supercomputer to discover a potential new treatment for cystic fibrosis. He continues part-time research at Toronto Sick Kid's hospital and begins studies at Harvard this fall.

In addition to their regional competition winnings, Canada's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place national winners will receive $5,000, $4,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively, with $500 prizes for honorable mention. A special $1,000 prize is awarded to the project deemed by the judges to have the greatest commercial value. The top two single person projects advance to the Sanofi-sponsored International BioGENEius Challenge to be held in Boston June 18 in conjunction with the BIO Annual International Convention.

"Sanofi founded the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada because we believe that advancing the potential of our youth to develop the next big breakthrough in science will not only benefit the life sciences industry but Canada as a whole. We have a great pool of talent in this country and it is with initiatives like these that we inspire young students to pursue careers in science and biotechnology," said Mark Lievonen, President, Sanofi Pasteur Limited.


About the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC)

The Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC) is a national, biotechnology research competition that encourages high school and CEGEP students to pursue future studies and careers in the exciting field of biotechnology. Coordinated by Bioscience Education Canada since its beginning in 1994, the initiative is sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur Limited, Sanofi Canada, Genome Canada, the National Research Council Canada/ Conseil national de recherches Canada (NRC-CNRC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada (CIHR-IRSC) and the Government of Canada's Youth Awareness Program. Canada's respected Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada has inspired counterpart competitions in the USA and Australia.

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