Graduating fellows starting from the left: Geoff Frost, Neil Christensen, Logan Skori and Alex Chee
Research can transform the landscape of our lives and Innovate Calgary, the University of Calgary, Alberta Innovates and other partners are committed to supporting entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators on their entrepreneurial journey to make that happen. On Dec. 16, we celebrated the most recent graduating cohort of the Life Sciences Fellowship, who showcased their startups’ impressive advances in life science technology.
“People are our province’s greatest strength. Through the Life Sciences Fellowship program, we are attracting, developing, and engaging talented people in a double win: addressing unmet health needs, while creating economic opportunity. It is truly thrilling to watch the growth and success of participating fellows!” says Nicole Mardis, director of health innovation talent, Alberta Innovates.
Adds Jane Desrochers, senior innovation manager and project lead for the Life Sciences Fellowship, “Having supported each founder for two years as they work tirelessly on their products and business, it is exciting to invite the broader innovation ecosystem to see the fruition of their work so far”.
Congratulations to the Fellows
Logan Skori, AgGene
AgGene is an agriculture biotechnology company focused on the development of plant traits to address major challenges faced during crop production such as drought tolerance, pest control and improving general food quality. AgGene’s flagship technology addresses the demand for improving protein content in plant tissues using advanced genomics and molecular plant breeding techniques including gene-editing.
At the event participants explored AgGene’s genetically engineered plants with displays of their GMO rice varieties and their first crop of genome-edited plants (canola, arabidopsis) using their proprietary gene-editing platform.
“The fellowship was a life changing opportunity which gave us a wide array of resources to start and establish the fundamental components of a biotechnology company. Our team at AgGene is very thankful for the opportunity and believe this fellowship program is critical for establishing a strong technology industry in Calgary” says Skori.
Neil Christensen, Vital XR
Using mixed reality, 3D printing, and expert-guided teaching algorithms, Vital XR aims to improve the medical training experience for medical practitioners by simulating experiences in a variety of locations and clinical processes. Attendees examined an anatomically correct mannequin with real-life scale, movement, and weight, with a short AR/VR experience showing how simulated virtual environments mix with the real-world and can level up training.
“My time in the fellowship was made special by the people of Innovate Calgary and the Life Sciences Innovation Hub. The unwavering support, time, and energy provided by Jane, Liam, and Chantal, to name just a few, exposed us to a wide range of business knowledge and enabled us to tap into various specialized expertise. I can’t thank them all enough as the growth in our founding group is outstanding and a fundamental building block for the next stage of Vital XR!” says Christensen.
Alex Chee, Smart Biomedical
Smart Biomedical is creating life-saving medical devices to treat collapsed lungs. Through a combination of greater depth control and built-in cavity recognition, their initial product — Smart Drain — is designed to make chest tube insertion quicker, safer, and easier. Attendees tested their first prototype of Smart Drain with the help of the inventors.
“The mentorship in my transition from academics to entrepreneurship has been priceless. The Life Sciences Fellowship is a novel program that is the envy of many of my colleagues in other centres who struggle to find guidance in navigating this landscape” says Chee.
Geoff Frost, Raft Digital Therapeutics
Raft Digital Therapeutics is changing the way people living with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) engage with therapeutic exercise. Their newly launched platform takes repetitive therapeutic exercise and turns it into a fun game with an engaging story. Players get to compete and connect via a global leaderboard. Attendees played the game meant to support kids with SMA and experienced the joy of movement through a series of therapeutic exercises while exploring the fictional world of The Cloud Bazaar.
About the fellowship
Activated by Innovate Calgary, the Life Sciences Fellowship runs out of the University of Calgary’s Life Sciences Innovation Hub and is supported by generous contributions from Alberta Innovates and Calgary Economic Development’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.
The Life Sciences Fellowship program takes early-stage startups with technology-driven solutions to important problems and adds funding, technology development resources, professional development training and expert support. The program helps innovation-focused talent gain the range of skills and experience they need to be successful in launching and growing companies, while expanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem that drives impact for Albertans.
“Thank you to Alberta Innovates and Calgary Economic Development for championing the program. The Life Sciences Fellowship would not exist without your generous contributions” says Jane Desrochers, senior innovation manager and project lead for the Life Sciences Fellowship.
“We are surrounded by extraordinary, hard-working and resilient technical experts and the world-class research they create. I am happy to support the Life Sciences Fellowship as it provides a unique combination of startup support to generate real-world impact from this research and to keep this extraordinary talent in the province.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Life Sciences Fellowship, feel free to connect with Jane Desrochers, senior innovation manager, new ventures.