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British Columbia Student's New Method for Diagnosing HIV in Newborns Wins Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada

2014 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC) Highlights Newest Crop of Young Scientists

OTTAWA, ON--(Marketwired - May 26, 2014) - A novel method of HIV detection for newborns under the age of 18 months and for adults before three months post-transmission earned a grade 10, British Columbia student top national honours today in the 2014 "Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada" (SBCC).

Nicole Ticea, 15, from York House School in Burnaby, BC was awarded the top prize of $5,000 by a panel of eminent Canadian scientists assembled at the Ottawa headquarters of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). 

Her impressive research project, mentored at Simon Fraser University by associate professor, Dr. Mark Brockman, is the first test capable of analyzing HIV viral nucleic acids in a point-of-care, low-resource setting. Nicole's research, was deemed an incredibly innovative solution to a global challenge according to the judges led by Dr. Julie Ducharme, General Manager, Human Health Therapeutics, NRC.

See a full project description below and online here:

Ten brilliant young scientists from nine Canadian regions, all just 15 to 18 years old, took part in the national finals. They had placed first at earlier regional SBCC competitions, conducted between March 27 and May 22, 2014.

High school and CEGEP students from Victoria to Saskatoon to St. John's, focused on biotechnology fields of discovery and study, submitted more than 200 proposals. Working closely with mentors, these students conducted research in diverse areas such as telomeres, diabetes, stress management, Alzheimer's, autism and pulp production. Since its inauguration in 1994, more than 4,700 young Canadians have competed in SBCC, with the majority of competitors going on to pursue careers in science and biotechnology.

1st place winner, Nicole Ticea will compete for Canada on June 22-25 at the International BioGENEius Challenge, conducted at the annual BIO conference in San Diego, CA.

2nd place, $4,000 - Ontario: Varsha Jayasankar, 17, grade 12, Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, St. Catherines won with research into how an extract created from mango ginger can be used to inhibit the growth of multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Project description:

3rd place, $3,000 - Ontario: Anoop Manjunath, 17, grade 11, University of Toronto Schools, Toronto investigated image processing techniques for the analysis of ultrasound stimulated bubble interactions with fibrin clots. Project description:

4th place, $2,000 - Manitoba: Ryan Wang,18, grade 12, St. John's-Ravenscourt School, Winnipeg, found that a protein called scleraxis is directly involved in cardiac fibrosis, which is characterized by the stiffening of the heart muscles. Project description:

5th place, $1,000 - Quebec: Julien Sénécal, 18, 1st year CEGEP, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Montreal, used the defense system of the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria to inhibit the replication of HIV-1) Project description:

Sanofi Canada President and CEO Jon Fairest, who presented the top national prize, said, "The Sanofi Group is very proud to be founding sponsors of the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada and participate in this inspiring competition. With its 21-year heritage, the SBCC shows how critical partnerships are to advance science and talent in Canada. From the mentoring provided by dedicated academics, to the support of government and the private sector, the SBCC truly stands out as a model for collaboration. The program is one response to Canada's national priority of encouraging skills development, education and jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields."

The SBCC gives young scientists access to professional labs and academic mentors, encouraging the pursuit of future studies and careers in the country's fast-growing biotechnology sector.

Each of the students worked for months conducting research and collaborating with university mentors.

1st Place Project Title: Isothermal Nucleic Acid Amplification System for Point-of-Care HIV Diagnosis. The project presents a novel method of HIV detection in developing countries. The test is capable of diagnosing HIV in newborns under the age of 18 months and for adults before three months post-transmission. It is the first test capable of analyzing HIV viral nucleic acids in a point-of-care, low-resource setting.

The nine final national projects were presented at NRC headquarters Friday, May 23 to a panel of eminent Canadian scientists:

  • Dr. Julie Ducharme, General Manager, Human Health Therapeutics, National Research Council
  • Dr. Pierre Meulien, President, Genome Canada
  • Ms. Jessie McAlpine, SBCC Alumna, Student at University of Toronto
  • Dr. Jim Richards, Director, Better Vaccine High-Risk Population, Human Health Therapeutics, National Research Council
  • Dr. Robert Tsushima, Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships, Faculty of Science, York University

National Awards Presenters included:

  • MC - Senator Joseph A. Day
  • MC - Denise Amyot, President and ceo of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • VROC Expert Participation Awards - Brent Peltola
  • SBCC commercialization Award - Karimah Es Sabar, CEO and president of the Centre for Drug Research and Development
  • 5th Place - Ms. Jessie MacAlpine, SBCC alumna
  • 4th Place - Pierre Meulien, Genome Canada
  • 3rd Place - Dr. Jim Richards, NRC
  • 2nd Place - Kevin Cougler, Partners In Research
  • 1st Place - Jon Fairest, Sanofi Canada President and CEO

About the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC)
The Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC) is a national, biotechnology research competition that encourages high school and CEGEP students to pursue future studies and careers in the exciting field of biotechnology. Coordinated by Partners In Research, the initiative is sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur Limited, Sanofi Canada, the Ontario Government (Ministry of Research & Innovation), York University, the National Research Council Canada/Conseil national de recherches Canada (NRC-CNRC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada (CIHR-IRSC) and Genome Canada.

For more information, please visit, follow us on Facebook or Twitter at hashtag: #SBCC2014

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