LETHBRIDGE: It's a win that has a business application but, also underscores the depth
of research taking place at the University of Lethbridge.
It was the first year that the Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge included a Tech
Stream for technology-based businesses. Three finalists were chosen from
24 entrants that submitted business plans for the challenge. The winning plan
came from the University of Lethbridge student researcher/entrepreneurs who form
the Synbiologica Ltd. team.
This is the second win for the Synbiologca team, comprised of CEO Isaac Ward
(3rd year, Neuroscience), first-year Biochemistry student Erin Kelly and
Chemistry and Biochemistry masters students Mackenzie Coatham and Harland
Brandon. They developed a new method of detecting hormones, which they expect
will bring next-generation hormone detection to the research agriculture and
medical market. They are in the process of patenting the the a biomedical
device technology -- called “Biologically Enhanced Assay in Real-Time".
Not only did the group win $10,000 in the South Venture Business Plan
Competition in March, they also took first place in the Tech Stream side of the
Chinook Entrepreneurial Challenge. With that, came another $10,000, a one-year
lease on space in the tecconnect Centre for New Commerce (a high-tech business
incubator operated by Economic Development Lethbridge), as well as a variety of
other assistance, including business consulting from MNP and ActionCOACH, and
thousands of dollars in media services.
Because the biomedical technology is in a patent phase, not many details can
be released. However, it is designed to improve the way in which hormones are
detected and provide more accurate information in a reduced time frame. The new
technology also has the potential for a wide array of applications.
Quoting a U-of-L release, Ward stated the team came up with the idea to
develop the company and the new biomedical device by using the skills they
learned through the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines)
“The internationally competitive program allows undergraduate
students to gain hands-on experience in science,” Ward said. U of L teams have
claimed several top international honours at past competitions, and three of the
Synbiologica entrepreneurs are off to Boston Massachusetts, toward the end of
June as advisors to the U of L's high school iGEM team. The university-level
competition takes place in October, 2013 at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Boston, MA.
The Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge is an
annual business planning competition hosted by Community Futures Lethbridge
Region. The competition evaluates and awards business plans submitted by
entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the free business training provided by
Community Futures across Southern Alberta.
On Wednesday, in Lethbridge, the Community Futures Lethbridge Region acknowledged the Synbiologica group for their win, and announced
the additional winners of the Chinook Entrepreneur
Challenge. Outside of the Tech Stream Category, Lethbridge-based Ladybug Arborists took first place, while
Strathmore business Kindred Companions and Lifesavers Designated Driving
(Lethbridge) shared the runner-up awards.
Synbiologica Ltd. team pictured L to R: Erin Kelly, Harland Brandon, Mackenzie Coatham
and Isaac Ward show off Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge aware.