How this Richmond company is solving a $2 million research challenge

There’s no shortage of tools to help businesses of all sizes grow in today’s world: accelerators and incubators host start-ups, blockchain technology helps businesses track transactions and keep records securely, and social media enables companies to reach global markets in mere seconds. But how does a company find that most crucial – while perhaps least tangible – tool: expertise? For Richmond-based biotech company Applied Biological Materials Inc. (abm), a chance encounter at an industry event has led to a series of promising collaborations with the University of British Columbia, brokered through Mitacs.

Mitacs, much more than your middle-man

Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization with programs aimed to increase Canadian innovation through research collaborations. For years Sherry Zhao, account manager at Mitacs, has been connecting local companies and academic researchers on projects of mutual interest and helping them find the right Mitacs programs to co-fund their projects.

During this first conversation, Sherry learned that abm was looking to design a diagnostic test to improve the detection and diagnosis of bladder cancer. With no comparable product on the market, abm was in position to make a significant impact on BC diagnostics (and their own bottom line). In a meeting with abm management at their Richmond headquarters, Sherry was able to get a strong understanding of abm’s research needs, and their discussions resulted in a successful application to Mitacs’ Accelerate program.

$420,000 project grows into 14-person research team

Accelerate is a highly flexible internship program that brings academic researchers into a company to collaborate on pre-determined projects. In addition to project assistance from Mitacs representatives like Sherry, participating companies see their contribution leveraged with Mitacs funding. abm’s initial Accelerate application proposed a 36-month project with five postdoctoral fellows and a supervising faculty member from UBC, budgeted at $420,000 and cost-shared equally between Mitacs and abm. With the progress and promising completion of the initial project, the company has since submitted another Accelerate project proposal valued at nearly $1.5 million and enlisting 14 UBC postdoctoral researchers and a faculty supervisor.

But what if my company’s not in biotech?

Mitacs isn’t just for biotech companies like abm. Its programs are open to for-profit businesses (including international companies with Canadian offices) and eligible not-for-profit organizations, and can be customized to accommodate various innovation interests, goals, and budgets.

Mitacs representatives like Sherry bring a large network of contacts and help connect businesses with researchers at institutions in the Lower Mainland and across Canada.

Whether you have a research project in mind or just want to discuss how Mitacs can work with your Richmond-based company,  Sherry Zhao would love to connect with you! ([email protected] or 604.679.3198).

Posted on November 2, 2018

Guest post by Mitacs

Fast facts about Mitacs

  • Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for more than 19 years.
  • Working with more than 60 universities, thousands of companies, and government partners, Mitacs builds partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • 92% of participating companies recommend the Mitacs Accelerate program, and 66% of the program’s projects have been or will be commercialized

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