Canada's Top Student Scientist Recognized at Sanofi Biogenius Canada National Final

Iveta Demirova, 16, student at New Westminster Secondary School in British Columbia, Recognized for Novel HIV-1 Treatment

OTTAWA, May 9, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - Iveta Demirova from New Westminster Secondary School in New Westminster, British Columbia, has been awarded top honours at the national final of the prestigious Sanofi Biogenius Canada (SBC) competition in Ottawa.  The 16-year-old, grade 11 student, was chosen by the judges for her research project exploring the development of a novel HIV-1 therapy.

The results of Iveta's research project, completed with the support of mentor Dr. Ralph Pantophlet of Simon Fraser University, could offer numerous advantages to those living with HIV, which remains one of the world's leading infectious diseases. Although current treatment options have managed to successfully target and suppress the virus among patients, many individuals become resistant to treatment, and it is among this population that Iveta's project could play a significant role. 

"I was very pleased with the results of my research and I am hoping that my findings will have an impact within the field of HIV research, and, more importantly, in the lives of patients living with this disease," she said. "I am truly honoured to have won the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition, and thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the country at the 2016 International BioGENEius Challenge in San Francisco in June."

One of the country's most prestigious student competitions, Sanofi Biogenius Canada pairs exceptional young scientists at the high school level with academic mentors to pursue real-world research projects. These enriching partnerships have resulted in many promising breakthroughs across various scientific fields.

Hosted at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the competition's national final featured the winners of all nine Sanofi Biogenius Canada regional competitions across the country. The nine finalists presented their research projects to a judging panel of esteemed members of the scientific community, including Dr. Robert Tsushima, Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships, Faculty of Science, York University; Dr. Thomas Merritt, Canada Research Chair in Genomics and Bioinformatics, Laurentian University; Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Program Leader, NRC and Michael McCluskie, Senior Research Officer, NRC.

"What distinguishes Sanofi Biogenius Canada from other science competitions is the real-life experience that participants gain by working in close collaboration with a mentor. There is nothing more inspiring than having the opportunity to pursue groundbreaking research projects with experts and leaders in their respective fields. Not only is the depth of Iveta's research project commendable, but it is a concrete example of the benefits of programs like SBC, which help transform passion into tangible results," said Mark Lievonen, Canada Country Chair, Sanofi and General Manager, Sanofi Pasteur.

Iveta receives a cash prize of $5,000, a portion of which will go to New Westminster Secondary School, and she will now progress to the 2016 International BioGENEius Challenge in San Francisco in June, where she will submit her work to a panel of pre-eminent international scientists.                

Runners-up in this year's national SBC competition were awarded cash prizes ranging in value from $1,000 to $4,000.

Second prize went to Melody Song, a student from Evan Hardy Collegiate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Melody earned high praise for her research project which focused on preventing disease in Faba Bean crops, and was completed with the support of mentors Dr. Kirstin E. Bett and Dr. Hamid Khasaei of the University of Saskatchewan.

Third prize was awarded to Denis Drewnik, a grade 12 student from Sisler High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for a project that examined how to protect the canola crop from the devastating Blackleg disease, which can reduce yield by up to 20% and have a devastating economic impact. Denis' project was supported by mentor Dr. Mark Belmonte of the University of Manitoba.

Dina Shehata from Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John's, Newfoundland earned the competition's Commercialization prize. The Commercialization prize recognizes the project with the most commercial potential and viability. Dina's research focused on developing a low cost gel model for ultrasound training.

About the Sanofi Biogenius Challenge (SBC)

Sanofi Biogenius Canada is a national science research competition open to high school students, which since 1992, has helped almost 5,000 young Canadians pursue real-world scientific research projects that have been the launch pads to future studies and careers. Coordinated by Partners In Research, the initiative is sponsored by Sanofi Canada, the National Research Council Canada/Conseil national de recherches Canada (NRC-CNRC), Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) and DelMar Pharmaceuticals.

For more information, visit biogenius.ca, or follow SBC on Facebook (facebook.com/SanofiBiogenius) or Twitter (@biogeniusca) using the hashtag #SBC2016.

 

SOURCE Sanofi Canada

Image with caption: "Iveta Demirova, 16-year-old, grade 11 student from New Westminster Secondary School in British Columbia, wins first place at the national final of the Sanofi Biogenius Canada (SBC) competition, which took place in Ottawa on May 2 and 3 (CNW Group/Sanofi Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160509_C3527_PHOTO_EN_685655.jpg

For further information: Maxime-Elisabeth Illick, NATIONAL Public Relations, meillick@national.ca, Tel.: 514- 843-2322, Cell: 514-475-9131; Mel Kern, Partners In Research, mkern@pirweb.org, Tel.: 519-433-7866 ext. 29

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