Currently, COLOGIC is on the market only in Ontario but Ms. Hayden says it will be rolled out to other provinces within the next year, and then the company will set its sights on the global market. The company also has other products in the pipeline using the same principle, a simple blood sample, to test the risk of pancreatic or ovarian cancer. "These are both very interesting challenges, because in both, there is not a gold standard test at the moment and there is a whole different level of need there," Ms. Hayden says.
Phenomenome also has research programs in degenerative diseases, with an eye toward developing blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
"The graveyard is littered with small biotech companies in Canada and the United States, that are founded and then have trouble making that kind of stretch – 13 years to get to market," Ms. Hayden says. Phenomenome started as a research company looking for a revenue streams and investment to continue the research and has grown into a company with a revenue stream and products on the market.
Researchers at the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, located at the University of Guelph in Ontario, have turned garbage and grass into a useful product.
Bio-bins are already on the shelves of Home Hardware and Canadian Tire. The bins are a composite of recycled plastics and natural fibres, namely the common switch grass, grown locally.
Amar Mohanty, director of the centre and an international leader in the field of biomaterials, says the product is made up of about 25 to 30 per cent bioproducts, which helps to decrease the consumption of petroleum.
"That will result in the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions," he says. "We tried to develop a technology depending on agriculture residues, so you can have your agriculture residue, recycled plastics, and your compounding and moulding all within a 100-kilometre radius. That helps to make the technology viable and sustainable."
The 13 researchers at the centre also use other natural fibres, such as corn cobs, oat hulls, soy bean stalks or wheat straw – all of which open up new markets for local farmers, too.
The bioproducts are completely biodegradable and the crops renewable. And switch grass can be grown on marginal farm lands.
The humble bio-bin was born of novel partnerships, financed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and industry partners, such as the RBC Foundation. Last November, the federal government granted the centre $2-million.
The University of Guelph earns royalties from licensing the bio-bin formula and the bins are marketed by an eco-products marketing company in Waterloo, Ont. Companies in Kitchener, Ont., and Cambridge, Ont., manufacture the bin.
The centre has also developed another product that Dr. Mohanty calls "flower pot," made from similar materials. The idea is also to develop biomaterials for use in car parts, and furniture. And Dr. Mohanty is also striving for a product that is 100 per cent made up of bioproducts and has already filed a patent for it.
"The challenge is to keep the balance between cost and performance," he says. "We are always trying to make new products that can be cost competitive and enter into the marketplace."
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