Research on using high frequency ultrasound to test the effectiveness of cancer therapies wins Thornhill students entry to National Biotech Competition

    TORONTO, April 15 /CNW/ - Ground-breaking research by three Grade 12
students from St. Elizabeth Catholic High School has earned the first place
prize in the 2009 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge (SABC) in the Greater
Toronto region.
    Alessandro Caroti, Ellie Shuo Jin, and Hans Tee won the $2,500 cash prize
and will share a $2,500 scholarship to either the University of Toronto, York
University or Ryerson University. Alternatively, each member of the winning
team is entitled to a full first year tuition entrance scholarship to Seneca
    The team will travel to Ottawa to compete in the national SABC
competition May 5, at the National Research Council headquarters to be judged
by a panel of experts. The national winners will be announced at a ceremony in
Ottawa on May 6.
    The students' research demonstrated that high frequency ultrasound could
be used to test the effectiveness of a cancer therapy drug by detecting cell
death in leukemia cells. This would be a relatively quick, non-invasive
diagnostic technique enabling doctors to alter the drug type and/or
concentration to provide more effective treatment and minimize side effects.
    Encouraged by Philip Sax and Mrs. Seham Grove and under the guidance of
mentors, Dr. Greg Czarnota, Dr. Joydeep Chaudhuri, Ms Lilian Doss, Mr. Mike
Papanicolau of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the first place team's
project was inspired by personal connections with the field of oncology.
    As he announced the first place team, Mark Lievonen, president of sanofi
pasteur, thanked all of the students for their hard work and the high level of
research they had taken on. "I hope the program has been a great learning
experience for you," Lievonen told the students. "Enjoy the networking side of
biotech tonight as you get to know future colleagues and employers."

    Cash prizes were also awarded:

    2nd place ($2,000):

    Giulia Pizzuto, Amanda Carroccia, Giordana Cortese, Maurice Pasternak
    St. Elizabeth Catholic High School

    This project involved the genetic analysis of strains of flu that were
    prevalent in 2008 and how they were related to drug resistance. These
    observations could be used to predict areas within the viral genome that
    provide a greater ability of a virus to be resistant to the anti-viral
    drug, oseltamivir.

    Supervising Teacher: Mr. Philip Sax
    Mentors: Dr. Ron Low, Dr. Stephen Drews, Jennifer Guthrie and AliReza
    Eshaghi, Ontario Public Health Laboratories.

    3rd place ($1,500):

    Juliana Xie, Earl Haig Secondary School, North York

    Juliana's research investigated ways of using sediment microbial fuel
    cells to treat organic waste and produce electricity as a byproduct. This
    technology has the potential to provide a clean source of energy from
    waste products. The highlight of this project was the simplicity of the
    materials needed to make the fuel cell.

    In addition, a $1000 award was presented to Juliana Xie, for the project
    found by the judges to have the greatest potential for commercialization.

    Supervising Teacher: Ms Sheila Wang
    Mentors: Dr. Krishna Mahadevan and Mr. Nick Bourdakos, the University of

    4th place ($1,250):

    Fiona Haxho, Northern Secondary School, Toronto

    This project investigated the role of two special proteins in kidney
    development and how they interact with one another. This work related to
    common human renal disorders and is important in determining the process
    of proper kidney development.

    Supervising Teacher: Dr. Danielle Gauci
    Mentor: Dr. Jason Cain, The Hospital for Sick Children

    5th place ($1,000):

    Iman Ashali, Jonathan Boss and Ashley Di Meo,
    St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School, Mississauga,

    The project researched of the potential effects of using an obsolete
    pharmaceutical drug in the treatment of cancer. The research showed that
    this drug affected the ability of a wide variety of cancerous cells to
    divide and has potential to be a candidate for future clinical trials.

    Supervising Teacher: Mr. Glen Kim
    Mentors: Dr. Aaron Schimmer, Ms. Rose Hurren

    As well, $500 in cash was awarded to the highest-scoring team from a new
    school in the competition. The award went to Tessa Karunakaran, l'école
    secondaire catholique Monseigneur-de-Charbonnel, Thornhill.

    Her project involved the investigation of epinephrine, a hormone produced
    during stress on angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels
    from pre-existing ones.

    Supervising Teacher: Mr. A. Ritchie
    Mentors: Dr. Daniel Dumont, Dr. Shahrzad Jalali, Dr. Steven Chen

    Many of the students found that the competition provided them with
    invaluable experience:

    "It was a great experience to work in a professional level research lab
    and it allowed me to learn a great deal on how the research experimental
    process works."

    "I believe that the SABC prepares me well for science in university."

    "It was a great experience to have the opportunity to work with such
    amazing mentors and to participate among many other youth that shared the
    same passion."


    Now in its 16th year, the Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge is a
high-level competition that introduces students to the real world of
biotechnology by carrying out research projects of their own design. An SABC
program has been held in the Greater Toronto area since 1993-94).

    The competition mirrors the real world of scientific research by:
    -   Requiring students to submit research proposals for evaluation by a
        scientific evaluation committee;
    -   Providing up to $200 in advance funding to approved student projects;
    -   Assigning mentors to each team to provide expert advice and access to
        equipment and supplies; and
    -   Having each student project judged by fellow students (peer review)
        and by judges representing government, business, academia and the
        education community.

    Follow-up studies have found that many of the students who compete go on
to careers in biotechnology, healthcare, agriculture, and the environment.
    More than 100 organizations Canada-wide are partnered in this educational
outreach initiative.

    Regional competition sponsors:

    -   University of Toronto,
    -   York University,
    -   Ryerson University,
    -   Seneca College,
    -   The Biotechnology Initiative
    -   MaRS

    The SABC programs in Toronto, southwestern Ontario and eastern Ontario
also receive financial support from the Ontario Ministry of Research and
Innovation through its Youth Science and Technology Outreach Program.

    National competition supporters:

    -   Sanofi pasteur
    -   BioTalent Canada
    -   National Research Council of Canada
    -   Genome Canada
    -   Canadian Institutes for Health Research
    -   the Canada Foundation for Innovation; and
    -   the Canadian Louis Pasteur Foundation

    The project is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sector
Council Program.

    About Sanofi Pasteur Limited and sanofi-aventis

    Sanofi Pasteur Limited is the vaccines business of the sanofi-aventis
Group, the third largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Sanofi Pasteur
Limited has a long history of supporting science education at the
post-secondary level. In 1994, it recognized the need to engage younger
students in biotechnology education, and the initial SABC program was run in
conjunction with the Biotechnology Industry Organization's first meeting in
Canada. Since then, the program has expanded to 14 events across Canada and
has involved thousands of students. As lead sponsor of the SABC, Sanofi
Pasteur is proud to collaborate with partners in government, industry and
academia to get high school students engaged in biotechnology. Sanofi Pasteur
Limited is Canada's only full-scale vaccine company, researching, developing
and manufacturing in Canada a broad range of human vaccines. With over 1,000
highly-skilled employees, it is one of Canada's oldest and largest biotech
companies. For more information:

    About BioTalent

    Canada BioTalent Canada helps Canada's bio-economy industry thrive
globally. As a non-profit national organization of innovators leading our
bio-economy, BioTalent Canada anticipates needs and creates new opportunities,
delivering human resources tools, information and skills development to ensure
the industry has access to job-ready people. BioTalent Canada is a Canadian
sector council-one of many partnership organizations created to address
skills-development issues in key sectors of the economy. For more information: or Colette Rivet, Executive Director, BioTalent Canada
613-235-1402 x 226;

For further information:

For further information: Tony Legault, SABC Toronto coordinator, (289)

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