Genome Atlantic: Writing the code for regional innovation and commercial success
In a region the rest of the world often appreciates only for its coastal vistas and pastoral beauty, the virtuous marriage of hard science and bold business is transforming the way people live and work, one extraordinary innovation at a time.
This is Genome Atlantic, a not-for-profit corporation with a mission to help Atlantic Canada reap the economic and social benefits of genomics and associated technologies in everything from agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture to energy, the environment, forestry, mining, and human health.
Says Steve Armstrong, Genome Atlantic’s President and CEO: “Delivering meaningful socio-economic impact requires innovation-friendly companies, creative academic experts, and a mix of private and public sector investment. That means exploring opportunities, finding partners and developing proposals. We are the connective tissue that has been bringing those key success factors together for 21 years.”
Since its inception in 2000, Genome Atlantic has been instrumental in putting together approximately $150 million in client-led projects focused on delivering tangible economic and health benefits. Now, says Armstrong, the region’s demand for genomics-based solutions has never been greater.
“Increasingly DNA-based or genomic technologies are an essential element of the innovation toolkit for companies and select public sector entities spanning just about any sector you can imagine,” he notes. “Many companies simply will not remain competitive if they do not continue – or in some cases, start – using genomics technologies. From optimizing agri-food and aquaculture production, to growing trees with the desired traits, to effectively monitoring their environmental footprint, to adapting to climate change: Genomics is key to all of that.”
The numbers are, indeed, convincing. Over the past five years alone, Genome Atlantic has seen a three-fold growth in R&D investment, almost all driven by end-user need and much of that from the private sector. In fact, business expenditure on R&D (BERD) represents about 25 per cent of the corporation’s project portfolio, compared with eight per cent in 2008. That portfolio consists of 23 current active projects valued at close to $60 million, in partnership with 25 companies and 15 universities.