Government of Canada

Government of Canada

October 18, 2010 11:28 ET

NSERC Recognizes Winners of Innovation Challenge Awards

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 18, 2010) - This morning, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) joined the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) President, Suzanne Fortier, to celebrate the winners of the 2010 Innovation Challenge Awards. Some of the researchers being recognized here today are developing a better way to assess knee injuries, a device to improve the detection of diseases such as breast cancer, and an improved methanol fuel cell with better run time and recharging capabilities.

"Our government celebrates the achievements of Canada's young scientists," said Minister Goodyear. "These researchers are bringing new discoveries into the market place so that Canadians can benefit—through a higher quality of life and a stronger economy."

The first prize—worth $10,000—goes to David Labbe, a researcher at École de technologie supérieure. The two runners-up—receiving $5,000 each—are Jamu Alford, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and formerly of The University of Western Ontario, and Alfred Lam, a researcher at The University of British Columbia. Eight other researchers each received an honourable mention prize of $1,500.

Dr. Labbe is developing a better way to assess the level of instability in the knee joint resulting from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Torn ACLs are common sports injuries that result in varying degrees of looseness and instability in more than 10,000 Canadians each year. Labbe's patented Knee Glide Analyzer combines sensors and software to precisely image and analyze the movement of the bones around the knee joint. The result could reduce, by more than half, the number of people who are routinely referred to orthopedic specialists. The technology is taking the next steps towards commercialization with the help of Emovi, a Canadian company specializing in evaluating joints.

Dr. Alford has developed a device to dramatically improve the molecular imaging of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, aiding in the detection of diseases such as breast cancer. This innovation, called delta relaxation enhanced magnetic resonance, differentiates diseased tissue from normal tissue. It does this by acquiring several MRI images at different magnetic field strengths—something not possible with conventional MRI systems.

Dr. Lam's research focuses on a direct methanol fuel cell power system with improved run time and recharging capabilities. Lam's innovation is anticipated to deliver industry leading energy storage capacity, extended run time and instantaneous "off-grid" recharging capability through a simple fuel cartridge replacement. It will aid in the creation of next-generation portable electronic devices.

"These awards encourage graduate students to consider real-world applications of their research. I am very impressed with the high calibre of the proposals we received from universities across Canada," said Dr. Fortier. "These young researchers understand that the ability to translate new knowledge into innovative products and services is an important factor for ensuring Canada's prosperity."

The Innovation Challenge Award was launched in 2004 by NSERC and the Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund. The program is currently sponsored by the Business Development Bank (BDC) of Canada and NSERC.

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 28,000 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

BDC is Canada's business development bank. From more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC promotes entrepreneurship by providing highly tailored financing, venture capital and consulting services to entrepreneurs.

2010 Innovation Challenge Awards Backgrounder

The Innovation Challenge Awards honour graduate students in the natural sciences or engineering who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and have identified ways their research thesis results can be developed into products and processes to benefit Canadians.

There are three awards: one $10,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runners-up prizes. Honourable mention prizes may also be awarded, if applications are deemed meritorious.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada provide the major funding for the Innovation Challenge Awards. Other financial contributors include MDS Analytical Technologies, Research In Motion, Syncrude, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and 3M.

Overview of the Ten Finalists

Dr. David Labbe
École de technologie supérieure
Research Program Title: Development and prevalidation of a measurement tool for the pivot shift phenomenon of the knee`
David Labbe developed a better way to assess the level of instability in the knee joint resulting from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
 
Dr. Jamu Alford
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, formerly of The University of Western Ontario, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Research Program Title: Device to improve MRI based molecular imaging
Jamu Alford developed a device to dramatically improve molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), aiding in the detection of diseases such as breast cancer.
 
Dr. Alfred Lam
The University of British Columbia, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Research Program Title: Novel membraneless direct methanol fuel cell and power method
Alfred Lam developed a direct methanol fuel cell power system with improved run time and recharging capabilities. This will aid in the development of next-generation portable electronic devices.
 
Dr. Muhammad Arsalan and Dr. Atif Shamim
Carleton University, Department of Electronics
Research Program Title: Wireless dosimeter for radiotherapy applications
Muhammad Arsalan and Atif Shamim developed a wireless module capable of real-time monitoring of radiation dosage for application in cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.
 
Dr. Irena Barbulovic-Nad
University of Toronto, Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering
Research Program Title: Digital microfluidics – New tool for drug discovery
Irena Barbulovic-Nad developed a planar array of electrodes for cell culture and analysis. This novel design allows researchers to conduct drug discovery research with greatly reduced reagent and cell use, and enhanced sensitivity.
 
Dr. Blake Erb
University of Saskatchewan, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Research Program Title: Run-around membrane energy exchanger performance and operational control strategies
Blake Erb developed a novel energy recovery system to help reduce the energy consumption required to condition fresh air, leading to significant decreases in energy costs and pollution.
 
Dr. Xiulei Ji
University of Waterloo, Department of Chemistry
Research Program Title: Lithium sulfur batteries
Xiulei Ji developed a novel, nano-structured lithium sulfur cathode material for a rechargeable battery that provides a significant improvement in energy storage capacity.
 
Dr. Daniel Kirouac
University of Toronto, Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering
Research Program Title: A stem cell culture device implementing "biofeedback control"
Daniel Kirouac developed a novel device and methodology for the fully automated and controllable system for the clinical production of human stem cells.
 
Dr. Suresh Neethirajan
University of Manitoba, Department of Biosystems Engineering
Research Program Title: Development of carbon dioxide sensor for grain quality monitoring
Suresh Neethirajan developed a carbon dioxide sensor for detecting spoilage of stored bulk grains that is efficient, compact and easily deployable. Currently, this problem costs Canada's grain industry millions of dollars in losses each year.
 
Dr. Joel Pel
The University of British Columbia, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Research Program Title: Selective DNA extraction from contaminated samples using SCODA
Joel Pel developed Synchronous Coefficient of Drag Alteration (SCODA), a novel molecular manipulation and separation technique for DNA concentration and purification. This technique has applications in clinical diagnostics, where the technology can be used to extract small DNA samples that would indicate the early stages of a disease.

Contact Information

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
    Shannon Cobb
    Media Relations Officer
    613-996-3861
    shannon.cobb@nserc-crsng.gc.ca
    or
    Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
    Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    Gary Toft
    Director of Communications
    613-947-2956