Innovators recognized for breakthroughs in cancer, COVID-19 prevention, drug discovery, aircraft safety, Indigenous sovereignty, and more
From the world’s first early detection blood test for eye cancer and groundbreaking work to discover affordable drugs for rare diseases, to a virtual shopping avatar that allows consumers to “feel” how clothes fit and an antiviral coating for face masks that prevents transmission of COVID-19, this year’s Mitacs Awards winners are pushing the boundaries of innovation. The six researchers, a leading professor and a first-of-its-kind Canadian-led consortium honoured this year are a testament to the calibre of the work supported by Mitacs and the global impact of Canadian innovation.
The annual Mitacs Awards — one of Canada’s top research and innovation ceremonies, taking place on November 23 in Ottawa — celebrate outstanding accomplishments of students, professors and partner organizations who participated in Mitacs programs. Presented by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions, they include six awards for outstanding innovation, one for exceptional leadership and one for commercialization of a novel idea.
“I congratulate the winners and celebrate their outstanding work — they are true testaments to Canadian innovation,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “These research and training opportunities, supported through Mitacs, are driving discoveries and improving the health and well-being of Canadians.”
In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO John Hepburn remarked on the importance of providing Canadian innovators with opportunities for experiential skills development through strategic partnerships between industry, government, and academia.
“Collaborative innovation is a proven and productive approach to research that ultimately helps to deploy top talent within the Canadian economy,” Hepburn said, noting that Mitacs is honoured to play a role in helping to advance important research within Canada. “Whether our researchers develop groundbreaking ideas by tapping into resources across our country or through international collaboration, their breakthrough work is benefitting all Canadians — and it’s this talent that is shaping the future of innovation.”
The 2021 Mitacs Award winners are:
Prisca Bustamante, a PhD candidate researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, who is being presented the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — PhD for developing the world’s first non-invasive blood screening test for uveal melanoma, the most common eye cancer found in adults. Her novel test is currently being used in a clinical study at the McGill Academic Eye Centre and is expected to have global impact.
Sophie Charron, a master’s researcher in medieval studies at the University of Toronto, who is receiving the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — International for uncovering new historical information about the important political and cultural role of queens in 14th century Central Europe. Her highly original work — the first to offer a gender-critical, feminist counterpoint view — is closing the gender gap in medieval history.
Lisa “Diz” Glithero, a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department at Dalhousie University, who is receiving the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Postdoctoral in recognition of her leadership role in developing the world’s first-ever national ocean literacy strategy, positioning Canada as a global leader in the effort to promote and sustain ocean health. The strategy, based on a landmark study involving more than 3,000 Canadians and 400-plus organizations, is viewed as a model for all countries to follow.
Seyyedarash Haddadi, a postdoctoral researcher at the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering, who is earning the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization for his breakthrough work to create a 99 per cent effective antimicrobial fabric coating that prevents transmission of COVID-19. Approved by Health Canada, the coating — which combines graphene oxide and silver — is now being incorporated into millions of face masks for sale worldwide.
Adam Schachner, a researcher in mathematics and industrial engineering at Polytechnique Montreal, who is receiving the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Master’s for creating a first-of-its-kind vibration simulator that mimics what it’s like to use a cockpit touchscreen under turbulence. His work is filling an important gap in aviation testing by providing an affordable way for aerospace companies to test and rapidly prototype their interfaces.
Moneca Sinclaire, a postdoctoral health researcher in the environment and geography department at the University of Manitoba, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Indigenous for her work to roll out a first-of-its-kind mobile app that empowers Indigenous communities to own their own data. The research tool is currently being used in Manitoba, B.C., and as far away as Ecuador, where communities are surveying their populations on important health and social issues, including COVID-19, housing, language, and youth suicide.
Raymond Spiteri, a computer science professor at the University of Saskatchewan, who is being awarded the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Professor, in recognition of his outstanding effort to facilitate more than 16 research collaborations with industry, most recently the development of a game-changing virtual shopping avatar that accurately mirrors different body types and uses heat maps to help online shoppers visualize how clothes will fit.
The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), a Canadian-led group of pharmaceutical companies, clinicians and academia, which is receiving the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Industry for their transformative open science approach to new drug discovery. By removing intellectual property restrictions and freely sharing the building blocks required to carry out experiments on the proteins that make up the human genome, SGC is creating a paradigm shift in the pharmaceutical industry, making it feasible to pursue affordable treatments for rare diseases such as childhood cancers and to respond rapidly to emerging viral infections like COVID-19.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon.
For information about Mitacs and its programs, visit mitacs.ca/newsroom.
SOURCE Mitacs Inc.