Ottawa, ON — November 22, 2022 — A breakthrough treatment for prostate cancer, an AI system that better detects heart disease, a revolutionary technology to clean up dangerous toxins, and a first-of-its-kind app to improve the lives of people with disabilities, are just some of the groundbreaking Canadian innovations that are being recognized by Mitacs — a national organization empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems.
Seven researchers and one trailblazing foundation were presented awards for their game-changing achievements at a ceremony in Ottawa on November 22.
The Mitacs Awards celebrate the tremendous achievement of top students, professors, and industry partners and recognize the infinite potential for innovation made possible when bold leaders work together.
They include six awards for outstanding innovation, one for exceptional leadership and one for commercialization of a novel idea.
“The Mitacs Awards are an incredible opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of some of the best and brightest researchers and innovators from across Canada,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “The winners of the 12th annual Mitacs Awards showcase that Canada’s future is bright with these young innovators leading the way.”
The 2022 Mitacs Award winners are:
Stephen Choi, a postdoctoral cancer researcher in the Urologic Sciences Department at the University of British Columbia, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Postdoctoral for his work to develop a groundbreaking treatment for prostate cancers. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Choi discovered that suppressing lactic acid, a byproduct generated by cancer cells, can prevent cancer from spreading. His work is now being used to develop an innovative, low-cost drug therapy.
Thierry Judge, a master’s student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sherbrooke, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Master’s for his work to speed the process of analyzing ultrasound images to accurately detect heart disease. The software he developed — artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted heart contouring — is currently being tested by Oxford, U.K.-based Ultromics Ltd, a leader in AI for echocardiography.
Courtney Toth, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Commercialization for her role in developing a cocktail of microbes capable of ‘eating’ some of the world’s most widespread contaminants. Specifically, Toth developed anaerobic microbial cultures (mixtures of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that grow in absence of oxygen) that completely break down a toxic class of petroleum hydrocarbons known as BTEX, commonly found in old gas stations and orphaned oil wells. The natural solution is a fraction of the cost of other remediation approaches and the cultures are now being produced and distributed by Guelph-based remediation company SiREM.
Maude Champagne, a PhD researcher in the Neuroscience Department at Queen’s University, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—PhD for her innovative work to fill a gap in Canadian support services by launching three first-of-their-kind initiatives to help families facing pandemic-driven uptick in aggressive behaviours at home from children living with disabilities. These include Canada’s first-ever nonviolent resistance (NVR) therapy program, the first National Consortium on Aggression Toward Family/Caregivers in Childhood and Adolescence (AFCCA), and a new AFCCA Family Support Program.
François Routhier, a mechanical engineer and professor in the Department of Rehabilitation at Laval University, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership—Professor, for his collaborative work to improve the everyday activities of people living with disabilities, including the development of an online dating-like app that matches individuals with volunteers in their community who can help them safely participate in outdoor leisure activities such as paddle boarding, hiking or adaptive skiing.
Cristiane Maucoski, a dentist and PhD candidate from Brazil who spent eleven months researching in the Department of Dental Clinical Sciences at Dalhousie University, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—International for her work to decrease time spent in the dental chair by helping dentists make stronger, longer-lasting fillings. Maucoski was instrumental in evaluating recently introduced curing lights used to harden white composite fillings in the mouth. Her work is speeding time to market for new and better curing lights, helping to reduce the high number of replacement fillings carried out by dentists each year and keeping patients healthier by preventing the leaking, pain and increased tooth decay that can result from improperly cured fillings.
Mateen Hessami, a wildlife ecologist and former Master’s student in the Biology Department at the University of British Columbia, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Indigenous for his work to help the Splatsin First Nation recover the endangered caribou population in their traditional territory and play a leadership role in Canada’s conservation efforts. Hessami was instrumental in facilitating co-learning between Western scientists and Indigenous community members so that Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and value systems are heard.
The Arctic Research Foundation, a not-for-profit charity working to solve the biggest problems facing Northern communities, is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation-Industry for their work to empower Inuit communities to take the lead in directing and determining projects that address their most pressing challenges. Mitacs interns have been instrumental in helping ARF to build a free, pan-Canadian research repository designed to break down silos in Arctic research; improve a digital storytelling platform called ArcticFocus to increase engagement and generate awareness about Arctic issues such as permafrost erosion; and, lay the groundwork to develop a sustainable fishery on Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.
In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO John Hepburn remarked on the importance of providing Canadian innovators with opportunities for experiential skills development through strategic partnership between industry, government and academia.
“These prestigious awards, now in their 12th year, celebrate the tremendous achievement of top Mitacs talent and recognize the infinite potential for innovation made possible when capable leaders work together,” Hepburn said. “Mitacs is honoured to play a role in helping to advance critical research, and foster economic growth, across Canada.”
For more information about the Mitacs awards and a full list of winners, visit www.mitacs.ca/newsroom.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. It is funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, along with the Government of Alberta, 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.