Lest anyone doubt the snail’s pace of “disruptive” technology, consider the progress of Forge Hydrocarbons Corp.

Forge is a made-in-Alberta textbook case of a new process marching towards money-making commercialization. The global alternative energy world is watching closely as Dr. David Bressler’s revolutionary biomass refining process, converting the dirtiest of cooking oils and animal fats to actual full-octane gasoline and diesel, is ramping up.

Forge Hydrocarbons’ Dr. David Bressler (left) and Neil Vanknotsenburg

From a pilot project producing 550 litres (or four barrels) of gas/diesel a day, Forge Hydrocarbons is now graduating to a pre-commercial plant capable of turning out 125,000 litres (or 310 barrels) per day.

Despite a relatively smooth development path – from fundamental to applied research, to experimental pilot plant production and now the final step before full commercial production – it has taken the still-young (early ’40s) food, bio-engineering and bio-refining professor 13 years to be this close to full-scale production.

“Three years for the fundamental research,” says the University of Alberta researcher. “Five years for the applied research, three years to set up the business and the experimental pilot plant, a couple of more years to develop the scale-up expertise. We wrote our first grant-capturing idea for this project in 2003.”

Major support has come from both investors and Canadian research funding agencies as diverse as NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Council), SDTC (Sustainable Development Technology Canada), Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Alberta Livestock & Meat Agency, all of whom liked what they saw.

On the business front, Forge Hydrocarbons has, pardon the pun, forged ahead. One of Canada’s leading alternate fuel entrepreneurs, BIOX bio-fuel founder and CEO Tim Haig, was so enthused about Bressler’s process that he left BIOX to become President and CEO of Forge Hydrocarbons, the company Haig and Bressler formed to bring the technology to commercial fruition. As well as a partner, Bressler is the company’s Lead Scientific Advisor.

Since before Forge Hydrocarbons was incorporated, TEC Edmonton has worked with  the University of Alberta spin-offer, assisting with technology management know-how and business development expertise.

Forge Hydrocarbons’ technological breakthrough is about the turning of fats into hydrocarbons without hydrogen or catalytic additives. Hydrogen and catalytic additives are the most expensive aspects of other biofuel conversion processes. At most refineries, a secondary plant must also be built to produce hydrogen.

In Bressler’s world, the feedstock is heated with water to create a mixture of fatty acids and glycerol. Once cooled, the fatty acids are separated, then re-heated to release oxygen which, in turn, creates pure octane-punching molecules of actual diesel and gasoline.

Until now, no one has created this process in a cost-effective way.

Environmentally, there’s more good news. Forge’s process reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90% compared to gas and diesel from conventional refineries.

Three years of ramp-up research in the pilot project at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre has been tremendously instructive. “We’ve found ways to re-circulate, to enhance the use of the raw materials, to modify the chemistry to reduce waste and improve quality,”
says Dr. Bressler.

“We realized we could produce a better product with a new process design. For six months, we shut down the pilot project for substantial re-engineering and modification.”

The time spent tweaking, re-designing and re-engineering has paid off. “We have a ribbon around this process,” says Bressler’s Forge Hydrocarbons associate Neil Vanknotsenburg. “It’s ready for prime time.”

But, says the always cautious Bressler, “we have to make sure we can support our mandate.”

Forge Hydrocarbons “drop-in” fuel meets a government directive that all transport fuels in Canada must have 2% to 4% biofuel in their mix. The fact is Forge fuels will be of much better quality than most biofuels. Being actual gas/diesel molecules, they do not dilute the octane power of conventional fuel.

Another advantage of the Forge way: As construction and refining costs are relatively inexpensive, small plants can be built close to biomass feedstocks.

Forge Hydrocarbons could, in the future, challenge conventional biofuel production by producing a higher quality biofuel on its patented platform from the same feed stock used in biofuels, i.e. crop oils and fats.

It would appear just a matter of time, a few short years, before Forge Hydrocarbons bio-fuel plants start sprouting up across Canada.

By then, Bressler and his research team will be working on Forge Hydrocarbons, Version 2.0. “We’ve got a really cool new idea,” says Bressler. “If it works, it will dramatically reduce the reaction time. But right now it’s just a theory.”

01Amazing what a strategically targeted funding program can accomplish.

Mitacs’ internship programs in Canada are:

  • Providing research experience for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (in all disciplines) at Canadian universities
  • Putting Canadian university expertise to work producing research and solutions for Canadian industry
  • Training highly educated students to work in the private sector
  • Sending Canadian students abroad to collaborate with international universities and companies to broaden their experience and expand their global networks
  • Encouraging new PhDs from Canadian universities to start their own businesses

Mitacs, says Lauren Mercier, Mitacs and TEC Business Development Specialist, is doing all the above and more.

Founded in 1999 as a federally funded Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence focusing on applied and industrial research in math and related disciplines, Mitacs has evolved into a not-for-profit organization that provides solutions to the needs of the Canadian innovation ecosystem in all academic disciplines.

While the number of master’s and PhD students from Canadian universities has been growing, The Conference Board of Canada has reported a smaller percentage have gone on to academic careers than has been the case in the past.

Students were graduating with highly specialized master’s and PhD degrees, but often lacked personal and business skills needed to employment outside the university environment. Those who did enter the workplace may have lacked the training and skills to build bridges between the academic and non-academic communities.

Finally, not enough Canadian students were studying abroad and creating the international networks they could draw on as they moved into leadership positions within Canada.

Mitacs, explains Mercier, has three programs addressed the needs articulated above.

The Mitacs Accelerate program matches funding from a for-profit or eligible not-for-profit organization to share the cost of a research project between graduate students and/or postdoctoral fellows, faculty supervisors, and the organization. “The student is being paid and is gaining industry-related experience as part of their studies,” says Mercier.

The Mitacs Elevate program provides funding and customized professional development training to postdoctoral fellows, as they lead two-year research projects with partner organizations. “Industry is looking for well-rounded people with both soft and technical skills,” says Mercier.

Mitacs Globalink provides international initiatives for students to do research at universities in Mitacs’ partner countries. Graduate students can also conduct research with for-profit companies around the world. The program also brings international students from select partner countries to work on research projects at Canadian universities. “Globalink participants can build world-wide networks and get international experience,” says Mercier.

Mitacs has partnered with TEC Edmonton to be proactive in the university community, urging graduates to explore private-sector and entrepreneurial options.  TEC Edmonton has long been a matchmaker between the University of Alberta and Albertan business, finding and bringing university expertise to industrial research challenges.

The fruits of such collaboration are already on display. In 2014, Mitacs engaged with over 900 different industry partners country-wide, brought over $1.5 million to the University of Alberta, and more importantly provided over 100 internships for U of A trainees to build their collaborative research experiences.

“TEC Edmonton has the network and the ties to both the University of Alberta research community and those businesses in the region with applied research needs,” says Mercier. “Mitacs programs are open to all disciplines at the University — we have projects in social sciences, humanities, and arts. We partner with not-for-profit organizations as well as businesses.”

MTI Logos high - no backgroundEDMONTON, AB – May 5, 2016 – TEC Edmonton client and University of Alberta spinoff company Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI) has signed a multi-million dollar licensing and distribution agreement with Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC (ADL) for its flagship product, PolypDx™, a urine-based diagnostic test for detection of adenomatous polyps, the precursor to colorectal cancer.

Every year,  approximately 1600 Albertans are diagnosed with colon cancer, and 600 Albertans will die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is preventable if identified early enough during the polyp stage; however, current polyp pre-screening tests are not always reliable.

Dr. Richard Fedorak (Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta) and Dr. Haili Wang discovered a simple and effective urine pre-screening test that has higher sensitivity than current fecal-based screening tests to detect adenomatous polyps. When pharmaceutical companies showed interest, Dr. Fedorak turned to TEC Edmonton for help.

TEC Edmonton’s team of technology management experts worked with Dr. Fedorak to provide technology evaluation, IP protection and patent filing services resulting in the creation of the University of Alberta spinoff company, Metabolomic Technologies Inc.  back in May, 2010. By securing licensing rights for MTI, TEC Edmonton helped enable MTI to pursue further licensing agreements, including its most recent with Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories.

“TEC Edmonton’s assistance in the initial formation of MTI allowed us to identify key markets for our research,“ stated David Chang, MTI’s Vice President, Research Operations. “Commercialization of PolypDx™ is a significant milestone for MTI offering healthcare professionals another tool in the prevention of colorectal cancer.”

Meanwhile, TEC Edmonton’s business development team, led by Dr. Randall Yatscoff,  who initially recognized the opportunity and encouraged the research team to do a  spin-off, guided MTI’s market research and business plan development. Reg Joseph, a TEC Executive-in-Residence (EIR) at the time, provided mentoring and negotiated with investors, allowing the research team to focus on the science. Joseph would eventually transition from EIR to CEO of MTI.

“We’ve been fortunate to see MTI grow since its early days when TEC Edmonton helped it become one of the U of A’s most promising spinoff companies,” said Chris Lumb, TEC Edmonton CEO. “MTI has always been a tremendous success story of U of A commercialization, and we’re excited to see its technology being leveraged across the border. Many patients and healthcare professionals will benefit greatly from this new agreement.”

The three and a half year, multi-million dollar licensing and distribution agreement signed between MTI and ADL provides a valuable entry point into the U.S. market. Initially, PolypDx™ will be available across twelve eastern states through existing distribution channels with the ability to grow distribution across the United States.

 

TEC EDMONTON MEDIA CONTACT:

Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard
Director of Communications & Marketing
Phone: (780) 492-0707
Email: Stephanie@tecedmonton.com

METABOLOMIC TECHNOLOGIES INC. MEDIA CONTACT:

David Chang
VP Research Operation
Phone: (587) 772-1684
Email: david.chang@metabolomictechnologies.ca

 

About TEC Edmonton

A unique not-for-profit, TEC Edmonton is a joint venture of the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. TEC Edmonton helps technology entrepreneurs accelerate their growth. In addition to being the commercialization agent for University of Alberta technologies, TEC Edmonton operates Greater Edmonton’s largest accelerator for early stage technology companies, including both university spinoffs and companies from the broader community.

TEC Edmonton provides client services in four broad areas: Business development, funding and finance, technology commercialization and entrepreneur development.

TEC Edmonton’s clients are an outstanding group of companies. Since 2011, TEC Edmonton clients have generated $680M in revenue, raised $354M in financing and funding, invested $204M in R&D, grown employment by 21-26% per year and now employ over 2326 people in the region. In addition, TEC Edmonton has assisted in the creation of 22 spinoffs from the University in the last five years.

In 2015, TEC Edmonton was identified by the Swedish University Business Incubator (UBI) Index as the 4th best university business incubator in North America, and was also named Canadian “Incubator of the Year” at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards.

For more information, visit www.tecedmonton.com.

 

About Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI):

Metabolomic Technologies Inc. (MTI) is a privately held Canadian company based in Edmonton, Alberta. A spin-off from the University of Alberta, MTI focuses on the development of metabolomics-based diagnostic systems created from proprietary biomarker technologies. The Company’s flagship product, PolypDx™, an innovative urine diagnostic test, offers a significantly higher sensitivity in detecting adenomatous polyps, a precursor to colorectal cancer (CRC). CRC is a leading cause of death in North America, but is curable if identified through early screening processes. PolypDx™ provides healthcare professionals with a tool for early screening and detection over less effective fecal-based screening methodologies considered suboptimal due to a lack of sensitivity and acceptability.

MTI is committed to developing high value diagnostic tests for the management of chronic disease. The Company received the North American Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation Leadership in 2014.

 

# # #

May 2, 2016 – Edmonton, AB – Business incubator TEC Edmonton has announced a strategic partnership with Sanofi Canada, a leading healthcare company, to provide new opportunities for Alberta healthcare professionals and researchers through its TEC Health Accelerator program.

Led by TEC Edmonton, in partnership with Innovate Calgary, the TEC Health Accelerator is an initiative designed to accelerate the growth of Alberta biotechnology companies and connect community entrepreneurs with medical and scientific researchers in Alberta. The program also assists in bridging the gap between investors, Alberta start-up companies, Alberta Health Services (AHS), potential industry partners and large animal/health agriculture companies. By connecting these entities, TEC Health Accelerator aims to broker major financing, partnership deals and revenue growth for clients in the healthcare space.

As a leading healthcare company, Sanofi Canada provides medicines in several therapeutic areas, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, oncology, renal disease and hematology. Backed by decades of service to Canadian healthcare professionals and patients, Sanofi Canada forms strategic partnerships to support solutions to address Canada’s healthcare challenges.

“The support from an industry leader like Sanofi Canada is what makes programs such as our TEC Health Accelerator possible, allowing us to promote, facilitate and accelerate Alberta’s health-related business innovation,” said Chris Lumb, CEO of TEC Edmonton. “Partnering with Sanofi Canada allows us to provide new services, resources and opportunities to the Alberta healthcare community, and we look forward to collaborating with them.”

“The partnership with TEC Edmonton is a strong example of how partnerships can help drive and grow innovation,” claims Franca Mancino, Head of Medical Affairs, Sanofi Canada. “We are committed to investing in R&D which contributes to establishing an environment that fosters greater collaboration and brings solutions for the benefit of society as well as the healthcare environment.”

Sanofi joins Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi Genzyme as partners of the TEC Health Accelerator.

Named the #4-ranked Incubator in North America by the 2015 University Business Index (UBI), TEC Edmonton has overseen the TEC Health Accelerator program since November 2014.

For more information, visit www.tecedmonton.com or contact:

Randy Yatscoff
Executive VP, TEC Edmonton
Phone: (780) 492-5744
Email: randy.yatscoff@tecedmonton.com

Jason Ding
Program Director, TEC Health Accelerator
Phone: (780) 492-8977
Email: Jason.Ding@tecedmonton.com

 

About TEC Edmonton

A unique not-for-profit, TEC Edmonton is a joint venture of the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. TEC Edmonton helps technology entrepreneurs accelerate their growth. In addition to being the commercialization agent for University of Alberta technologies, TEC Edmonton operates Greater Edmonton’s largest accelerator for early stage technology companies, including both university spinoffs and companies from the broader community.

TEC Edmonton provides client services in four broad areas: Business development, funding and finance, technology commercialization and entrepreneur development.

TEC Edmonton’s clients are an outstanding group of companies. Since 2011, TEC Edmonton clients have generated $680M in revenue, raised $354M in financing and funding, invested $204M in R&D, grown employment by 21-26% per year and now employ over 2326 people in the region. In addition, TEC Edmonton has assisted in the creation of 22 spinoffs from the University in the last five years.

In 2015, TEC Edmonton was identified by the Swedish University Business Incubator (UBI) Index as the 4th best university business incubator in North America, and was also named Canadian “Incubator of the Year” at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards.

For more information, visit www.tecedmonton.com.

# # #

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