A Discovery of Talent and Drive

Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference places IBBME ingenuity

IBBME’s graduate students were in the spotlight at the recent Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery conference, held during the last week of May. The conference, known as an “innovation to commercialization” meeting, is the largest of its kind in Canada.

“It’s a technology driven conference,” describes Aric Pahnke, a first year Biomedical Engineering PhD student and conference participant. “OCE is an incubator for startups, so the conference is geared towards these kind of companies, small start up companies.”

Aric and his labmate, first year MASc student Miles Montgomery, were among the participants of the OCE 3 minute video contest, whose results were made known at the conference awards ceremony on May 28th.

Aric and Miles created business team “Renovacor,” whose pitch was explained in a three-minute video. The video, which was broadcast on YouTube, outlines the kind of research being conducted in Milica Radisic’s Functional Tissue Engineering lab: prinicipally, the growing of cardiac cells which may one day be used as patches to heal damaged hearts. “This is amazing research,” Pahnke says of the work being conducted in his lab. Montgomery noted that the conference and video competition helped the duo sharpen their skills. “Scientific communication is key,” Montgomery explained. “Even a seven or eight year old could watch the videos, which communicated in three minutes our graduate research.” The conference also gave the 2,600 attendees an intimate glimpse into the collaborative research being conducted at the Institute

But the big winner of the day was 3rd year PhD student in Biomedical Engineering – Clinical Engineering concentration, Amir Manbachi. Manbachi’s submission to the OCE 3-Minute video challenge involved his recently incorporated start-up company, begun with Professor Emeritus Richard Cobbold and Professor Howard Ginsberg, Manbachi’s co-supervisors.

At the same event, Manbachi was awarded the title “Neuroentrepreneur” and awarded an Ontario Brian Institute (OBI) and OCE joint entrepreneurial fellowship worth $50,000. The experience was an important one for Manbachi. “I learned that I need to know the ‘big picture’ and be able to explain it well.”

He was given ample opportunity to do just that at the conference. “I had a chance to meet with the Premier of Ontario and talk to her about my project,” Manbachi reports, adding that he also met the Minister of Research and innovation, Reza Moridi.

Eight fellowship winners into neuroscience research were announced at the conference; the fellowships are meant to promote the expansion of trainee’s technological and entrepreneurial skills.

Read the full story on the joint OCE-OBI fellowships.