Ontario Genomics Welcomes New Board Members

Ontario Genomics' New Board Members

Ontario Genomics is delighted to announce the appointments of Anne Woods and Derek Newton to our Board of Directors. To further expand the board’s perspective, we created a voting student representative role and are thrilled that Jehoshua Sharma, PhD Candidate at the University of Guelph, has transitioned from observer to a full voting member. These three individuals bring a wealth of insight, experience, and expertise in areas crucial to our organization and will contribute to achieving the strategic vision of Ontario Genomics.

Ontario Genomics is also excited to announce Ann Marie Vaughan will take on the role of Chair of the Board, and Colin Kelleher the role of vice-chair. We thank Deb Stark for her service in the role of Chair over the last four years. Her contributions were vital in advancing Ontario Genomics’ board governance and leading the board’s oversight and input in the development of Ontario Genomics’ 5-year strategic vision and plan. We appreciate her ongoing commitment to the board in the role of Past Chair.

Ontario Genomics is also thankful to retiring board members for their years of deep commitment to our board. Stephen Cummings served on our board for nine years and played an invaluable role in chairing Ontario Genomics’ Audit Committee and ensuring good governance of Ontario Genomics’ finances. Charmaine Dean served on our board for three years and provided important insights into the perspectives of Ontario’s researchers and entrepreneurs. Alison Sunstrum’s astute private sector outlook sharpened our vision for company support over the past year. Thank you for your contributions to OG!

To learn more about the new members and additional changes to our Board please visit our Governance page.

Anne Woods

Anne Woods is the Managing Director of Life Sciences & Healthcare at RBCx where she leads the banks efforts in the sector across Canada. Born and raised in Toronto, Anne brings over 25 years of experience in life sciences and capital markets, with 15 years of experience within pharma and biotech. Prior to RBCx, Anne launched and led the Life Sciences and Healthcare practice in Canada for Silicon Valley Bank. Read more about Anne Woods

Derek Newton

Derek Newton is the Assistant Vice-President, Innovation, Partnerships, and Entrepreneurship at The University of Toronto (U of T). He supports the university’s bold innovation agenda towards fostering the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs, developing successful corporate research partnerships, and managing the IP portfolio of the university. Read more about Derek Newton

Jehoshua Sharma

Jehoshua Sharma is a PhD student from Trinidad and Tobago, currently at the University of Guelph in Ontario. He is studying the fungal pathogen Candida albicans in the lab of Dr. Rebecca Shapiro. He is also developing novel CRISPR-Cas variants to expand the current genetic manipulation toolbox for fungal pathogens to study the functional genomics of drug resistant isolates. For his work in the Shapiro lab he has won the ‘CBS, Best Paper’ award for his CRISPRi system, the International Doctoral Scholarship and multiple grants. Read more about Jehoshua Sharma

Ontario Biotech Start-ups Get Government Funding Boost

From Ottawa to Guelph, life saving and tasty innovation is happening

Four new start-ups have been welcomed into BioCreate, Ontario Genomics’ $11.6-million accelerator program providing financial and business support to biotechnology companies creating game-changing solutions in the health, food and agriculture, and cleantech industries.

BioCreate is funded by Ontario Genomics and a Government of Canada investment of over $5.6 million, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). The program connects highly vetted companies with $150,000 in non-repayable funding, 18 months of business mentorship and access to critical infrastructure. They’ll also get the opportunity to pitch to investors for further funding. Here are this round’s recipients:

  • Escarpment Labs is a Guelph-based company that supplies cutting-edge yeast strains to craft brewers to enhance the flavour of their brews and ensure easier fermentation during the beer making process.
  • QurCan Therapeutics is a Toronto medical sciences company that has developed technology to boost the effectiveness of cancer-fighting medicines to improve the quality of life for patients.
  • Spectra Plasmonics is based in Kingston, where it is perfecting a helpful tool for the food and beverage industry. The company’s bacteria sensing tests give manufacturers quick and accurate results on the safety of their food.
  • Virica Biotech is an Ottawa-based medical sciences company focused on a ground-breaking approach to make cell and gene therapies cheaper and easier to produce so more patients can get access to potentially life-saving treatments.

These four companies join the eight health, food and agriculture, and cleantech start-ups that were accepted into the BioCreate program last spring.

Ontario Genomics President and CEO, Dr. Bettina Hamelin, says, “BioCreate’s financial investment comes at a critical time for these companies to scale up and create new jobs, while the mentorship gives them the business support they need to succeed and get their technologies and tools into real-world use.

It’s great to hear that these four incredible companies have joined the BioCreate program,” says the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “It’s our government’s priority to support emerging genomics companies with access to the tools and resources they need grow and make a positive impact on the lives of Canadians.

About Ontario Genomics
Ontario Genomics is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada and other partners. Since 2000, we’ve been involved with cutting-edge science to find homegrown solutions to challenges the world faces like climate change, food insecurity and healthcare. Find out more at OntarioGenomics.ca.

About FedDev Ontario
For 14 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Media Contacts
Maggie Blood
Innovation Communications and Public Affairs Manager

Edward Hutchinson
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

Attention start-ups! BioCreate Cohort 3 is now open!

BioCreate Program

Ontario Genomics’ BioCreate program is now open to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in southern Ontario looking to commercialize genomics and engineering biology enabled products and/or technologies in the health, food and agriculture, and cleantech sectors at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 4+.

What does BioCreate do? We provide funding, access to mentorship and business support to help companies bring new products and technologies to market.

Program Highlights:
  • Direct, non-repayable funding of $150,000.
  • Access to 18 months of intensive business mentorship and critical infrastructure provided by Ontario Genomics’ strategic sectoral and regional partnerships.
  • An investor showcase for each cohort, giving companies the opportunity to pitch to investors and potential partners.
Application Steps and Dates

Interested? Review the Program Guide for more information on BioCreate, including eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria, then fill out the BioCreate intake form and a representative from our team will reach out to discuss your project idea. Eligible applicants will be invited to submit an application.

If you have questions, please contact BioCreate@ontariogenomics.ca.

The deadline to submit an intake form for Cohort 3 is Thursday, November 30, 2023. Additional details and the application process can be found on the BioCreate page.

Complete the intake form now to find out more about your company’s eligibility!

The BioCreate program is supported by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and Ontario Genomics. The current budget is greater than $7 million over five years.

Ontario Genomics Projects Part of a $30 Million Research and Innovation Investment

McMaster and Guelph universities are tackling food insecurity and climate change

Projects at McMaster University and the University of Guelph are part of a $30 million investment in genomics-based innovation through the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems (CSAFS) program. A total of nine Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams across Canada are getting the funding through a partnership with Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics and other organizations.

With the world’s population at 8.1 billion people and counting, food insecurity is a major concern, especially when you factor in climate change. The biggest Canadian cellular agriculture project ever is being led by McMaster University with help from the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and Collège La Cité, where researchers are developing efficient and economical ways to produce cultivated meat on a large scale.

One of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture comes from methane-filled cow burps. Led by the University of Guelph, researchers are creating a diagnostic toolkit to help farmers breed dairy cows with better digestion, which will make them significantly less gassy.

These two projects are getting nearly $6 million from the federal government through Genome Canada. Another $4.4 million is being given to joint Ontario Genomics projects led by Genome Prairie and Genome BC. Researchers at the University of Manitoba are developing soil microbe inoculants to replace chemical fertilizers, while research is underway at the University of the Fraser Valley on how to create new agricultural technologies in a responsible way that will benefit everyone.

Ontario Genomics President and CEO Dr. Bettina Hamelin, says, “Climate change is threatening our food supply and these projects are just the tip of the iceberg in the critical innovation happening in Ontario to produce sustainable food for Canadians. With more support like this, we can bring more jobs to the province and create meaningful solutions to the world’s most serious problems.”

Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada, says, “By harnessing the power of genomics, and the strengths of diverse researchers, institutions, companies and communities, the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems initiative will support vital transformation across one of the most important sectors for Canada’s economy, our health and wellbeing.”


Ontario Genomics is a non-profit organization funded by the Government of Ontario and Genome Canada. Since 2000, Ontario Genomics has been nurturing innovation across the province by supporting genomic technologies in the health, agriculture and food, and environment sectors. Find out more at ontariogenomics.ca.

For Media Inquiries:
Maggie Blood
Innovation Communications and Public Affairs Manager

Ontario Genomics-CANSSI Ontario Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genome Data Science

We are pleased to announce a new joint funding opportunity from Ontario Genomics and CANSSI Ontario, the Ontario regional centre of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute, establishing another joint Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genome Data Science.

This Fellowship, now in its third year, will support the work of an early-career investigator pursuing research in the areas of genomics and data science with an emphasis on genomic medicine, including, but not limited to, methodology, application, and translation of genomic prediction tools such as polygenic risk scores; human-computer interactions; or novel genomic computational approaches to therapeutic identification.

Proposed projects should be innovative, generalizable across applications, and not restricted to developing a predictive tool for a single application.

The Fellowship offers two-year salary support for up to $50,000 annually for postdoctoral fellows undertaking full-time research at a CANSSI Ontario partner university or their affiliated research institutes. Candidates are responsible for selecting, contacting, and securing the commitment of two faculty members to jointly supervise them in their project, one being a statistical geneticist, genetic epidemiologist, or environmental epidemiologist.


Ontario Genomics
Michael Dorrington, Manager, Strategic Partnerships
Telephone: 416.673.6562
Email: mdorrington@OntarioGenomics.ca

Erum Razvi, Advisor, Sector Innovation & Programs
Email: erazvi@OntarioGenomics.ca

CANSSI Ontario
Esther Berzunza, Program Manager
Telephone: 416-689-7271
Email: esther.berzunza@utoronto.ca


Ontario Genomics is a not-for-profit organization leading the application of genomics-based solutions to drive economic growth, improved quality of life and global leadership for Ontario. Ontario Genomics plays a vital role in advancing projects and programs by supporting the development of their proposals, helping them access diverse funding sources, and finding the right industry partners to take this research out of the lab to apply it to the world’s most pressing challenges. Since its inception in 2000, Ontario Genomics has raised more than $1.27 billion for genomics applied research in Ontario and directly supported more than 9,100 trainees and jobs. We have 110+ active projects, 500+ impactful partnerships and have secured $1.34 billion in follow-on investments.

CANSSI Ontario is the Ontario regional centre of CANSSI–a national institute offering the leadership and infrastructure necessary to increase and further develop statistical sciences research in Canada and promote the discipline. CANSSI Ontario seeks to support data-intensive, interdisciplinary research and strengthen the network of statistical and data scientists in Ontario and across Canada. www.canssiontario.utoronto.ca.

“Antenna-in-a-cell”: Forest Insect Pest Research and Management

Insects damage important crops and forests, and some insect species are responsible for the transmission of disease. If we better understand which compounds mediate the attraction of these insects, we could better control the damage. SPARK funding for this project will help Drs. Daniel Doucet and Jeremy Allison (Great Lakes Forestry Centre) develop the antenna-in-a-cell platform that aims to find physiologically active odorants and understand how they interact with the insects’ odorant receptors (OR). This research holds promise for the development of odorant molecules as operational insect lures.
The project focused the validation of the approach on two invasive insects of critical concern in forestry: the Emerald Ash Borer and the Brown Spruce Longhorned Beetle. The experiments have resulted in the identification of key ORs in both species which will, down the line, aid in the development of optimal odor blends to use against these two insect species.

All Awarded Projects

Drones for Breeding Better White Spruce

The field of tree genomics has seen unprecedented advances over the past decade. A suite of next generation genomic resources for improved tree breeding and selection will soon become available to breeders and forest managers, thanks to a project led by Drs. Ingo Ensminger (University of Toronto) and Nathalie Isabel (Forest and Environmental Genomics at Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service (CFS) – Quebec region) in partnership with PrecisionHawk.

An investment by Ontario Genomics through its Pre-Commercialization Business Development Fund (PBDF) will support rapid deployment of a software application to market. The software will allow users to determine the performance of individual trees and forest stands and to assess their phenology and water deficit at various time points in the season.

A team of scientists will use already established white spruce progeny trials in Quebec and Ontario and survey entire populations using a drone carrying optical sensors for leaf spectral measurements. Aerial sampling will be paralleled by leaf level sampling on subsets of seedlings on the ground (30-40 genotypes multiple times per site and year) looking at phenology, hydration level and spectral properties. The team will then develop algorithms for correlating plant phenology, leaf responses to hydration level and genotype information with drone-collected leaf spectral properties.

This survey data will be available to our partner company, PrecisionHawk, to create a software application that will be available to end users via the Algorithm Marketplace― the proprietary “app store” for drone data analysis.

These tools are expected to accelerate breeding cycles, through an innovative approach for large-scale phenotyping of tree responses to drought, monitor phenology, and assess differences between genotypes in large-scale field experiments.

All Awarded Projects

Delivery Strategies and Monitoring Tools for Bioremediation

BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes – are natural components of crude oil and petroleum and are used in the synthesis of a wide range of useful materials and chemicals. They are also toxic, and benzene in particular is a known human carcinogen. In some mining sites, as a result of extraction, transportation and refining processes, as well as accidental spills and leaks, BTEX compounds frequently pollute groundwater in all industrialized regions of the globe.

In Canada and elsewhere, remediation of contaminated sites is difficult and costly. When possible, affected soils are dug up and treated or disposed of offsite. Dr. Elizabeth Edwards of the University of Toronto is working with SiREM, a Canadian leader in bioremediation, to scale up and commercialize anaerobic bioaugmentation cultures for in situ BTEX remediation. They were awarded $1M for this project led by Ontario Genomics.

All Awarded Projects

Isolating Uranium from Mine Discharge Water

Canada is the world’s second largest producer of uranium, and more uranium has been mined in Canada than in any other country (as of 2014). Although current treatment methods meet regulatory requirements for inactive sites, there are opportunities to develop new treatments that achieve consistent effluent quality in a cost-effective and sustainable manner, and which should allow for recovery of uranium and other metals from tailings sites.

One of the largest barriers to treating mine waste using bioremediation has been the challenge in maintaining treatment efficacy. Ontario Genomics is investing seed funding towards the first steps to develop genomics-enabled technology that will do just that.

Drs. Susan Glasauer (University of Guelph) and Nadia Mykytczuk (Laurentian University) are partnering with Denison Environmental and US-based company, Inotec, to develop a microbial electrode technology to sequester uranium from mine tailings and remediate water to discharge standards.

The use of microbial electrodes for the remediation of some elements of concern, such as selenium and arsenic, has already been successfully implemented by Inotec using their electro-biochemical reactor (EBR) technology. With seed funding, the research team will design a system to optimize uranium removal and recovery and perform bench scale testing of the technology using water from a former Uranium mine in Ontario. It is anticipated that this will lead to an improved understanding of the microbial pathways involved in free electron use, which may be applied by the mining industry to sequester uranium for long-term sustainable and cost-effective treatment of sites.

All Awarded Projects

Healthy Plant Growth with Enhanced Nutrition in Soil

Natural soil bacteria can play a critical role in plant health. Ontario Genomics is providing seed funding for an academic-industry partnership to identify soil containing these beneficial microorganisms with the goal of enhancing their benefits.

Boreal Agrominerals Inc. (Boreal) specializes in the mining and commercialization of Spanish River Carbonatite (SRC), an agro-mineral fertilizer which promotes soil balance and healthy plant growth. To identify the beneficial microorganisms that facilitate nutrient uptake by native plants and cash crops and to expand the economic potential of its product, Boreal is collaborating with researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University and Algoma University to characterize the distribution of microorganisms naturally found at various mining sites from the SRC deposit, located near Sudbury, Ontario.

The team will further investigate the effects of mining and site characteristics on soil microbial communities based primarily on nutrient solubilisation and plant nutrient availability. Once beneficial microorganisms are identified, Boreal aims to determine the specific functional mechanisms associated with nutrient solubilisation, acquisition, and transfer to plants.

All Awarded Projects