National Research Council Canada-NRC

National Research Council Canada-NRC

May 06, 2009 13:00 ET

NRC: Saskatoon High School Student Wins Top Honours in National Biotech Competition

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 6, 2009) - A groundbreaking study by Grade 10 student Scott Adams has earned top national honours among 14 regional entries in the 2009 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge (SABC).

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance congratulated the student teams from across Canada at the national awards ceremony held today at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

Scott Adams of Saskatoon's Walter Murray Collegiate Institute won the top $5,000 national prize today with a novel way to turn off a gene in wheat and alter its starch elements. This starch is found in packaging, textiles, foods, adhesives and lubricants.

"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to congratulate all of the regional Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge award winners for their outstanding research projects," said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry. "Canada is fortunate to have so many talented young people. I am encouraged by the ingenuity and creativity of the SABC competitors demonstrated here today."

In addition to their Canadian prizes, 1st place winner, Scott Adams, and the national 2nd place winner, Joseph McNeil of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, will compete for Canada at the International BioGENEius Challenge in Atlanta, Georgia, June 17-20.

The Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge is an annual competition intended to raise awareness among students, educators and the public about the emerging science of biotechnology.

"We encourage you all to consider pursuing a career in science to push the frontiers of knowledge," said NRC President Dr. Pierre Coulombe. "Congratulations to all of the young scientists participating in this year's SABC national competition."

NRC is a partner in the national competition with lead supporters, Sanofi-Aventis and Sanofi Pasteur Limited, and BioTalent Canada.

The top national runners-up:

Commercial prize ($1,000): Kirsten Larsen, Manitoba

A special prize of $1,000, awarded for the project with the greatest commercial potential, was won by Kirsten Larson, 18, of Swan Valley Regional Secondary School in Swan River, Manitoba, who determined the nutritional and medicinal properties of a little-known Japanese fruit called the haskap berry her family grows in Northern Manitoba. She showed that although haskap berries were low in total minerals and vitamin C, they had exceptional levels of cancer-preventing anti-oxidants.

2nd place ($4,000): Joseph McNeil, Nova Scotia

Joseph McNeil, 18, a Grade 12 student at the Richmond Academy in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, won the 2nd place prize with a study related to Lou Gherig's disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS), using green tea to promote motor neuron growth. Among his results: an increase in cellular growth by 16 to 30 per cent.

3rd place ($3,000): Binudith Warnakulasooriya, Manitoba

Binudith (Bin) Warnakulasooriya, 17, in Grade 11 at Winnipeg's Fort Richmond Collegiate, for a project that would lead to an important discovery about how the flax plant produces SDG lignan, a potent anti-oxidant highly valued as a dietary supplement for cancer prevention and a range of other reported health benefits from lower cholesterol to anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

4th place ($2,000): Caitlin Martin Newnham, Ontario

Caitlin Martin Newnham, 18, a Grade 12 student at London's A.B. Lucas Secondary School, who looked for a way to help her mother find a safe alternative pain reliever and successfully pioneered a way to take the burning sensation out of oil of hot peppers, which have natural painkilling properties. Using leeches, she also created a new humane way to conduct pain research without inflicting it on vertebrates.

5th place ($1,000): Melanie Gallant, PEI

Melanie Gallant, a Grade 12 student at the Ecole Francois-Buote in Charlottetown, PEI, who identified how a common agricultural herbicide inhibits the production of androgens, the male hormone, in marine fish.

Special Mention: Maria Carolina Festa, Quebec

The judges also awarded a special mention for independence and ingenuity to Maria Carolina Festa, 15, a Grade 10 student in Montreal, who enlisted a common bacterium to render deadly nitrate-contaminated water fit for drinking. Unlike the other competitors, Maria conducted her research without the help a university mentor. Her accomplishment was achieved in her high school lab at Villa Sainte-Marceline School.

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