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Awards salute science and engineering innovations


Ottawa, ON – The first-ever NSERC innovation challenge awards have been given to Dr Matthew Heuft (University of Ottawa), Jrme Mulhbacher and Carmen Calinescu (Universit du Qubec Montral) and Dr John Tze-Wei Yeow (University of Toronto).

“I am extremely proud of the current crop of new research talent in Canadian universities, and these awards challenge them to consider the potential applications of their work in the world outside the university lab,” says Dr Tom Brzustowski, president of NSERC. “With this prize, we recognize four young researchers whose creativity and insights will be an example we hope many others will follow.”

As the top prizewinner, Dr Heuft receives $10,000. An organic chemist, he proposed potential applications for a family of chemical compounds that he developed, in high-tech manufacturing of thinner and more light-weight screens for devices like cellphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and consumer electronics.

Mr Mulhbacher and Ms Calinescu share a prize of $5,000. Their submission demonstrated the potential of a modified form of starch for use in oral medications (pills) that can withstand stomach acid and thus carry drugs directly and effectively into the small intestine. So far, tests have shown the modified starch to be effective for treating infectious post-weaning diarrhea in animals.

Dr Yeow also wins a prize of $5,000. An industrial engineer, he has designed a new generation of very small (micromachined) scanners less than 2mm across and described how they could someday be inserted into a human body to produce high-quality images of internal organs. Previous small-scale scanners were incapable of producing clear images, while larger scanners cause unwanted damage to body tissues.

“We have outstanding scientists and engineers in this country who are second to none worldwide,” says Dr Peter Morand, president and CEO of the Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund. “We’re proud to recognize this talent with these awards, and we encourage other young researchers to consider how their work could benefit Canadians through economic opportunities and an improved quality of life.”

The Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund is a national labour-sponsored venture capital fund that focuses on private advanced-knowledge companies.