State of the Nation 2010

Innovation Pathways - Basic research and value creation

Innovation Pathways
Basic research and value creation

Where people, knowledge and entrepreneurship connect, innovation happens.

Like synapses between nerve cells in the brain, connections are complex, not linear.

This image shows how Boreal Genomics made connections to take research to the market.

Research (discoveries and inventions)
Basic and applied research

Government laboratories

Dr. Andre Marziali and Dr. Lorne Whitehead of the University of British Columbia (UBC) discover a new way to extract DNA molecules from small or heavily contaminated samples by exploiting a unique property of DNA molecules. They develop a technology called SCODA or Synchronous Coefficient of Drag Alteration.

Talent (science and business)


Development and Commercialization

Product rollout
Creation of new firms
Technology transfer
Proof of principle
Product/process development and testing
Business expansion

In 2007, Boreal Genomics is founded as a spinoff company from Dr. Marziali's lab at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Boreal is given an exclusive licence from UBC to commercialize the technology.

With close connections to UBC, Genome BC, as well as within the San Francisco Bay area, Boreal Genomics builds a team, composed of young scientists, mixed with seasoned entrepreneurs and advisors.

In 2007 and 2008, Boreal builds and field tests early instrument prototypes of SCODA.

In 2010, Boreal applies its SCODA technology to develop extraction of specific DNA or RNA fragments from a clinical sample, allowing technicians to more quickly find a particular type of DNA in a sample not just all the DNA in that sample. This could help develop a device that would provide physicians with immediate diagnostic information.

Government Support

Commercialization support programs (funding, advice)
Framework policies
University R&D support
Shared infrastructure (labs, equipment)

Development of the SCODA technology is accomplished with financial and infrastructure support from a number of sources including the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Genome BC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Boreal occupies the "Discovery Parks" business incubator facilities available at UBC.

Marketing and Sales

Product support
Market research
Sales channels development (revenues)
Global marketing strategies

The technology can be used in other scientific fields where researchers struggle with materials that are often in low abundance or too contaminated to yield quality DNA. These fields include archaeology, forensics, bio-defence and life sciences. The technology is being used to identify microbes that live in oil sands. The hope of researchers is to identify biological versus mechanical means of separating sand from oil.

In 2009, the first SCODA "alpha" machine is sold to researchers. In 2010, the second-generation "Aurora" machine is commercially available. Boreal Genomics technology is now being used by scientists in Canada, the U.S. and Norway.


Pre-seed/seed and early
Initial public offering
Working capital and expansion
Late stage

Boreal Genomics grows significantly in its first few years with grants from government agencies and investment from a small group of angel investors.

In December 2010, Boreal Genomics secures its first institutional financing totalling $6.9 million. ARCH Venture Partners, Kearny Venture Partners and GrowthWorks Capital Ltd. lead the financing with participation from InQTel. These funds are being used to commercialize a second-generation technology for highly selective enrichment and diagnostics.

Boreal Genomics, based in Vancouver, B.C., is a small growing company that develops and commercializes methods and instruments for DNA molecule purification, enrichment and detection.