Behind the breakthroughs in healthcare

Behind the breakthroughs in healthcare

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Published: April 20, 2022

Halifax is home to some of the world’s leading research in healthcare. We boast world-class universities and talent. Local hospital foundations raise millions of dollars every year to support their advancements.

Nova Scotia is uniquely positioned to provide solutions to the world’s leading issues in healthcare. We hope you will join us on Wednesday, May 4 for our 2022 Spring Dinner, where we’ll shine a light on the stories and successes that are changing the medical field around the world. In the meantime, take some time to get to know the local speakers behind the breakthroughs in healthcare!

Be sure to reserve your ticket to 2022 Spring Dinner today at:

Dr. Daniel Boyd

Associate Professor
Dalhousie University

Can you describe the day when you decided to set out on your line of research?

My interest in material science and biomaterials started when I was probably 16 or 17 —the first time I held an artificial hip in my hands. I was like, oh my f****ing God, this is amazing. This stuff was dug out of the earth, formed and shaped into this thing, and now someone is going to be able to walk again. That was the spark of inspiration for me.

My research today is about finding new glass materials to treat different kinds of diseases. My love of glass research started in my PhD. We were making a liquid that you could inject into the spine to stabilize a fracture. We learned that we could change characteristics of that material if we changed the glass chemistry. Changing that glass chemistry became a monumental puzzle that I loved picking apart and putting back together.

What question or challenge were you setting out to address?

In essence, I'm the geek and I just need someone to give me a set of user needs for a particular market to see if I can build it. We spend our days doing two things. First, the basic science discovery work — so that when a set of user needs comes calling, we're going to be able to discover a new material quickly. But on the other end, once we get a set of user needs defined, I engage a very different innovation protocol to materialize that into an actual commercial product.

Why was Halifax the place to conduct your research?

The answer is simply community. My ability to talk with end users is really easy in Halifax, and it's not that easy everywhere else. The collaboration isn't as present in other jurisdictions as much as it is here. For my research to materialize as a real product that will benefit patients and doctors, we require clear user needs to be established. To do that, you have to have access to doctors, and Halifax provides a fantastic home for that type of interaction because everyone is so collegial here. People are so freaking friendly. It doesn't matter what I'm working on. I'm a phone call away from having meeting with someone who can fill me in on user needs and get me started.

Learn more about Dr. Boyd's research at:

Dr. Shashi Gujar

Assistant Professor
Dalhousie University

Lead Scientist
Laboratory for Cancer Biology Metabolism and Immunotherapy

What question were you setting out to address when you started? And why was Halifax the place to do it?

I am working on finding a cure for cancer by training our immune system. One in two Canadians will get a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, so there is a huge need for effective cancer therapies. We are developing cutting-edge innovations to kill cancers.

Atlantic Canada is a community-oriented place, where scientists like myself feel hugely supported. I personally love the fact that our community shares the passion that we have to come together to fight the deadly disease of cancer.

What part of your research is the coolest to you — the part that you’re most excited to talk about?

We have discovered that when we train our immune system, we can kill cancer cells that are present at the local sites as well as those that are spread in the patient's body. More importantly, this antitumor immunity can establish active protection even after the discontinuation of the therapies — thus making sure that the cancer relapse doesn't happen. The fact that we can train our immune system to fight against cancer, similar to what we did against COVID-19 using vaccines, is simply amazing!

What message would you like to share with the public when it comes to understanding and supporting the scientific process?

All I can say is research saves lives! When we do cancer research, we are on a constant hunt for new ways by which we can beat cancer. Especially with technological advances, sometimes we find new paradigms that are different from the old ones — but the goal always is to find the best solutions for promoting our best health possible!

Learn more about Dr. Gujar's research at:

Gabrielle Masone

Founder & CEO

What question or challenge were you setting out to address when you started?

Coloursmith was started to tackle colour vision deficiencies — in particular, to develop a set of contact lenses capable of functionalizing colour vision with targeted narrowband light filtration. But to our surprise, there was an underlying technical problem preventing the incorporation of any good light filtering ingredients into contact lenses. That was a big problem for us because in order to develop this product, we had to first resolve a serious technical problem that plagued the industry and has for years stifled new product development.

In turn, we developed a novel platform technology that offers an innovative solution to overcome the problem. With the help of our proprietary technology, we're able to tackle colour vision deficiencies, and help to launch dozens of other groundbreaking contact lens products.

Why was Halifax the place to conduct your research?

There's a huge amount of value in the region. Many Canadians may not think of Atlantic Canada as a viable option for their business, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, they’ll find that we have top notch financial and legal services, a growing VC community with growing female representation, and the third lowest operating costs for a research centre outside of the 50 largest cities in Canada and the USA. Not to mention we’re conveniently located with a diverse talent pool, boast a high density of colleges and universities, and are backed by supportive business ecosystem. There are literally dozens of reasons to be here. I couldn't imagine a better place for our company to be.

In this era of mistrust and misinformation, what message would you like to share with the public when it comes to understanding and supporting the scientific process?

Mistrust, like fear, serves a very important purpose. It keeps us alert. It sparks curiosity and can drive us to action. But action against science accomplishes nothing, and fear can be manipulated to the detriment of all people.

It’s vital that we try to understand through a variety of perspectives and judge for ourselves. It’s our responsibility to stay quizzical!

Learn more about Gabrielle's research at:

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight

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