October 2, 2013

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Successful Long-Term Collaboration between Geosyntec, University of Toronto Leads to Over $10 Million in Funding

GUELPH, Ontario, Canada — Genome Canada is contributing over $5 million to a research project called "BEEM: Bioproducts and Enzymes from Environmental Metagenomes" being led by Dr. Elizabeth Edwards of the University of Toronto and Dr. David Major of Geosyntec Consultants. Collaborators include: Bangor University in Wales, UK; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of Massachusetts; U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute; and Argonne National Laboratory. Their metagenomic approach is based on simultaneously sequencing and analyzing the genomes of many organisms, i.e., soil bacteria, without having to isolate and cultivate all the separate species, a time-consuming and often impossible process. Thus, entire communities of life can be examined to screen, identify, and analyze novel proteins (enzymes) with potential as catalysts to transform pollutants and low-value plant residues and waste products into valuable bioproducts such as fuel.

Genome Canada, a nonprofit organization established in 2000, was given a mandate by the Government of Canada to develop and implement a national strategy for supporting large-scale genomics and proteomics research projects, for the benefit of all Canadians.

"This funding will allow us to use the most advanced technologies available to examine new ways of creating sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and novel bioremediation approaches for emerging contaminants," commented Dr. Edwards. "Using plant-based or waste material to produce biofuels and other valuable, eco-friendly bioproducts will be a major step forward, both in identifying innovative sources of energy, but also in identifying other, potentially transformative uses of enzymes in industry."

Geosyntec's ongoing research and development (R&D) relationship that lead to the development of KB-1/SiREM was featured prominently in the proposal to highlight the challenges involved in taking a simple discovery to a successful product and service, and how the BEEM project will use that experience to accelerate the discovery and commercialization of new products. Dr. Major said, "Geosyntec's success is in part due to collaborating with leading researchers, such as Dr. Edwards, to develop low cost, sustainable technologies. The ideas, products, and students that come out of our collaboration keep Geosyntec a leader in environmental consulting and engineering."

In addition to the Genome Canada award, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, with matching funds from the Province of Ontario, will provide over $5 million towards equipment and infrastructure to create "BioZone." BioZone is a collective of professors with common values and interests, who want to pool resources to effectively train students and more quickly advance research and put it into practice. BioZone will integrate a remarkable group of experts from a diverse range of fields, including chemical engineering, biology, medicine, computational mathematics, and environmental studies to create a focal point for applied and environmental bioengineering research. Geosyntec provided key seed funds through a $50,000 R&D grant to Dr. Edwards that started this venture in 2007.

"We owe a lot of our success to the success of SiREM and Geosyntec, and Dr. Major's inspiration," Dr. Edwards said. SiREM, based in Guelph, Ontario, Canada is a subsidiary of Geosyntec. SiREM was founded in 2001 with the mission of bringing to market unique, science-based products and solutions in support of groundwater remediation.