Getting students to network and connect with industry leaders in their chosen field is not always easy. But make it a fun competition based on a hit television show and you suddenly get a lot of interaction and opportunities for companies to show off to potential future employees. That was the thinking behind the first ever Amazing Biotech Race held at Innovation Place in Saskatoon as part of National Biotechnology Week in mid September.

The idea was dreamt up by Blaine Chartrand, a member of this year’s Biotech Week organizing committee for Saskatchewan events, which is headed by Ag-West Bio. Chartrand is an instructor in SIAST’s Biotechnology and Veterinary Technology Programs. Thirty six students took part in this year’s event.

They were first and second year SIAST Biotechnology students as well as high school students in the Bioresources Management program from Evan Hardy and Centennial Collegiates. Students were split into teams and were given clues to six checkpoints at different biotech companies at Innovation Place or on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

At each checkpoint they had to take part in lab challenges that earned them the next clue, all while meeting people and becoming familiar with the biotech organization.

“The activities ranged from performing titration assays, to a safety gear dress-up race, to putting together a two minute business pitch for a newly developed biotech product,” explains Chartrand. “Nothing too serious, and a fun way to learn more about the bioscience community.”

“I wanted to show biotech students the business of science as an alternative career option,” says Sanjeev Singh, President & CEO of AdeTherapeutics, explaining why he took the time to participate in the event. “We will be recruiting in the future and it was good opportunity to learn about the students and share our opportunities with them as well.”

Along with AdeTherapeutics, participating companies included the BioManufacturing Unit of the Saskatchewan Research Council, VIDO-InterVac, PREVENT, POS Bio-Sciences and NRC-PBI.

The race wrapped up with the students joining a larger networking event at Boffins for Biotech and Beer. Jackie Robin, Communications Director with Ag-West Bio says she’s sure the event will be included again in next year’s National Biotechnology Week activities.

“One of the objectives of National Biotechnology Week is to promote opportunities in the sciences to students and this was a great way to do that.” National Biotechnology Week is a BIOTECanda initiative designed to celebrate and acknowledge the innovation and creativity of Canadian life science researchers and entrepreneurs.

Industry development associations across the country organize events to promote the sector. Ag-West Bio coordinates the Saskatchewan activities with an organizing committee made up of bioscience cluster organizations.

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