A study involving the use of hormonal therapy to treat ovarian cancer won a Halifax high school student top honours in the 2007 Nova Scotia sanofi-aventis biotech challenge (sabc), held at the National Research Council Institute for Marine BioSciences (NRC IMB) on Wednesday. The winners and runners up were announced last evening during BioNova’s annual Celebration of Research Excellence.

Sixteen year-old Victoria Bentley of Sacred Heart School of Halifax took home first place in the competition. Her research set-out to determine the relevance of hormonal therapy to ovarian cancer and whether or not it has a suppressive effect upon the growth of tumor cells. She worked under the mentorship of Dr. Michelle Mujoomdar, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie University. As first-place winner, Ms. Bentley and her school shared a cash prize of $2,200 and she will go on to represent Nova Scotia at the national sabc competition on May 10.

“It is a real pleasure to host this program in Nova Scotia,” said Marli MacNeil, CEO of BioNova. “The enthusiasm and creativity these students bring to their projects put us in good stead for future leaders of the province’s life sciences industry.”

sabc, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program, invites high school students to learn about biotechnology by allowing them to carry out research projects of their own design. The program’s primary objective is to encourage more students to pursue studies and employment in the life sciences. BioNova has been a regional coordinator of the sanofi-aventis biotech challenge for the past nine years, to promote careers in the life sciences sector among high school and university students in Nova Scotia.

All of the students in the competition worked with mentors in university or research institute labs during the school year to develop and execute their experiments. The other finalists in the competition included:

Second Place – Shalini Rao 
School: Sacred Heart School of Halifax 
Project: The Role of Activin Signaling in Ovarian Cancer Cell Behavior 
Mentor: Dr. Mark Nachtigal and Ms. Brigitte Theriault, Dalhousie University

Third Place – Alexandra Blay and Kayee Choi
School: Sacred Heart School of Halifax 
Project: Effect of Herbal Tea Infusions on Chemical Compositions and Biological Effect on Human Digestive Cells
Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Blay and Dr. Tannis Jurgins, Dalhousie University

Fourth Place – Lauren Hunter and Laura Fitzpatrick 
School: Queen Elizabeth High School 
Project: Melatonin: A potential Warrior in Combating Plant Disease? 
Mentor: Dr. Sophia Stone, Dalhousie University

Awards for the sabc were presented by BioNova President Jean Paul Deveau, and Dale Yakutchick of sanofi-pasteur. During the celebration, Dr. Colin Barrow was also honoured with BioNova’s Research Excellence Award for his outstanding contributions to the life sciences industry in Nova Scotia.

About BioNova: 
BioNova is Nova Scotia's Biotechnology and Life Sciences Industry Association. BioNova’s mandate is to support its members as they develop their businesses, and to work with government and others to promote the creation of a business environment in which this development can occur.

For more information, please contact:
Marli MacNeil, CAE, 
Chief Executive Officer 

Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 27, 2007