Global Biotech Week in Saskatchewan was a collection of networking events for industry and outreach events to bring awareness to the public. We started a couple days early to take advantage of a local art festival and extended a couple days beyond to accommodate a tour at the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre (Food Centre). As well, the Canadian Light Source on the University of Saskatchewan campus hosted its first tours since before the Covid pandemic began.
Below are a few highlights from the week:
A beautiful blend of art and science
On a cool, fall night, a crowd gathers near a school on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon. Exclamations of “ooh… look at this one! This is so cool!” and “Wow, that’s my favourite!” can be heard.
On a table is an array of petri-dishes, arranged in a grid. People take turns shining flashlights on the disks to discover glowing images inside.
This display, “Making Art with Bacteria” was a collaboration between Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Nuit Blanche, and Global Biotech Week. Nuit Blanche is an art festival held in Saskatoon each September.
Blaine Chartrand, Program Head of BioScience Technology at Sask Polytechnic, is always looking for fun and creative ways to engage his students. Sharing the students’ bacteria art project with the public at Nuit Blanche was a perfect fit for Global Biotech Week.
Along with the BioScience Technology students, a class from Bedford Road Collegiate and Nuit Blanche committee members were invited to the labs at Sask Polytech to create artwork, using a harmless, genetically engineered E.coli bacteria as a painting medium. When the paint is applied, it is almost invisible – but as the bacteria multiplies, magic happens. When a UV light is shined on the images, they glow.
Chartrand explained that to make the painting medium, they prepared plasmids (small circular pieces of DNA) that contained fluorescent genes from jellyfish as well as chromoproteins from coral. The plasmids were also engineered to have optimal gene expression in bacteria. The plasmids were then transferred to E.coli to produce genetically engineered bacteria. “In all, we were able to produce nine different colors of bacteria to be used in our palette of color for bacteria art.”
Student volunteers were onsite all evening to share the scientific information. The display drew a steady stream of visitors from sunset to midnight. A modest estimate was that at least 1000 people visited the Making Art with Bacteria.
Innovation for the tastebuds
On September 26th we celebrated bioscience innovation in Saskatchewan’s food and ingredients sector with a kick-off lunch (a pre-pandemic tradition for Global Biotech Week), hosted by Ag-West Bio. Chef Diego (from Eurest) created a delicious menu from ingredients supplied by some of our member companies: Prairie Berries, NorQuin, Drake Meats, Back to YouRoots, Sask Food Industry Development Centre, Northern Vigor Berries and CanMar Foods.
Maple Bacon Corn Chowder Soup, Tricolour Quinoa & Feta Salad, Smoked Ham Wraps, Mixed Vegetable Wraps, Lemon Infused Quinoa, Kale, and Wild Rice Falafels, Mixed Greens Salad with a Mesquite BBQ Pulse Crunch topping, Ice Cream with Saskatoon Berry topping or Seabuckthorn Syrup, and Seabuckthorn Iced Tea.
Partnering with Café Sci
2022 marked year nine for the partnership between Global Biotech Week Saskatchewan and Café Scientifique Saskatoon. Dr. Julia Boughner has hosted Café Sci in Saskatoon since 2013. Pre-pandemic, Café Sci was held monthly (fall to spring) in the basement at Winston’s Pub. Julia took the show online for the past two pandemic years. September 27th, we co-hosted a hybrid edition of Café Sci at Boffins Event Centre.
Our guest speaker was Dr. James Robson, Associate Professor in Human Dimensions of Sustainability at the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS), presenting Why communities are at the heart of global conservation efforts. Drawing on experiences, observations and lessons learned from 20-plus years working in and with communities across the Americas, James’ talk focused on “the relationship between people and nature, about (Indigenous, traditional, rural) communities as global players in conservation and environmental stewardship, and how young people in these communities will shape what happens next in such places.”
Julia says she plans to take a break from Café Sci this winter, but we hope it will be back on the list for the fall of 2023.
Indigenous Voices in Science
On September 27th, Genome Prairie hosted a lunch and panel discussion at Boffins called Indigenous Voices in Science, bringing together accomplished indigenous individuals who are pursuing science and research careers.
Panelists were: Dr. Kyle Bobiwash, an indigenous scholar and Assistant Professor of Entomology at the University of Manitoba; Dawn Pratt, founder of askenootwo STEM; Gord Monroe, a laboratory technician at the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS); and Amber Thomas, an Operation Technologist at the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation. Blaine Chartrand served as moderator.
The panelists shared their own unique experiences, talking about why they entered science careers and obstacles they encountered along the way. All panelists agreed that there are not enough roll models in STEM fields for Indigenous children.
Mixing it up: biotech, beer and trivia
This year we mixed biotech with beer and trivia as part of The MIX at Boffins, Innovation Place.
Guest speaker Dr. Chris Eskiw, Associate Professor, USask College of AgBio, Food and Bioproduct Sciences (FABS), led a beer tasting session and presentation The original ‘micro’-breweries: connecting yeast with beer flavors.
Chris, who specializes in nutritional genomics, has been conducting research to learn how and why yeast affects the flavor of beer. He collaborates with various Saskatchewan companies involved in craft brewing, and has partnered with 21st Street Brewery, whose beer was served in the beer tasting at the event. Read more
A game of Biotech Trivia followed. It was an ‘edge of your seat’ win…The Eskiwers edged out Team Gattaca in a (disputed) tie breaker to take first place.
Science for sustainability
A Global Biotech Week pre-pandemic partnership between Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) and Nutrien Wonderhub was rekindled with an event for children called Climate Cool: Exploring Science for Sustainability on October 1st.
AITC brought some of their many table-top science activities to Wonderhub where participants could extract DNA, learn about soil science, create a ‘living necklace’ and plant Saskatchewan crop seeds.
The event also served as a launch for a science poster competition. The posters will be on display at Wonderhub during the month of November, with prizes for the top picks.
Startupville: Biotech Week edition
The Global Biotech Week edition of Startupville podcast featured Mehmut Tulbek, CEO of the Food Centre, Heather Deobald of Quantum Genetix, and Jackie Robin of Ag-West Bio.
- Mehmut Tulbek (Food Centre) starts at 01:09
- Heather Deobald (Quantum Genetix) starts at 14:57
- Jackie Robin (Ag-West Bio) starts at 25:42
This episode of Startupville is brought to you by Innovation Place, Martin Charlton Communications and Ag-West Bio.
Visit globalbiotechweeksask.ca to learn more about Global Biotech Week and for the full list of events and supporters.
Photos from Global Biotech Week: