NHPRS presentation to help researchers navigate from good idea to commercial success

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / ismagilov
© Getty Images / ismagilov
There are many challenges in taking a good idea to commercial fruition and success, and hearing about companies that have been there and done it is often a great way to learn.

At the upcoming Natural Health Product Research Society (NHPRS) of Canada Annual Conference, May 14-17, in Guelph, Ontario​, Dr. Rickey Yada is Professor and Dean of the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems will discuss his adventures in this area. Dr Yada was previously the Scientific Director of Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet), a virtual research network, funded through the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program, that brought together researchers in food and biomaterials to help take a good idea to commercial success and consumer acceptance.

“The goal of my presentation is to summarize, especially from an academic perspective, the challenges of taking a good idea from concept to fruition,” ​Dr Yada told us.

Case studies

His presentation will examine several case studies that have made it to the final stages, and some of the challenges they have faced. One such example is personalized nutrition pioneer Nutrigenomix​, he said, which spun out of the University of Toronto by Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy. The company offers genetic testing kits for healthcare professionals and their clients to help improving health through personalized nutrition.

The challenge for such a network is how they balance “blue sky” projects with research already proven at the bench, but is now facing the challenges of scale.

Rickey Yada large
Dr. Rickey Yada, Professor and Dean of the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems

The network ran a series of workshops on subjects ranging from IP to funding, which proved to be very insightful to researchers. And interestingly, many of the attendees were not faculty members but post-doctoral researchers and PhD students who were facing limited opportunities in academia.

Support was also provided for start-ups navigating the “valley of death” that comes with scale-up and proof of concept and where the funds this stage. “We used STAR, or the Strategic Transition and Application of  Research, to help companies get over this hump,”​ said Yada.

Another company that benefited from workshops provided by AFMNet was Guelph-based Mirexus Biotechnologies that is “commercializing a novel nanotechnology based on polysaccharide nanoparticles that can be used in a wide variety of markets ranging from cosmetics to nutraceuticals to biomedical applications in animal and human health”, according to the company’s website​. This technology was originally developed at the University of Guelph in the laboratories of Professor John Dutcher.

“I’ll talk about how to navigate things many researchers are unsure of,” ​said Dr Yada.


Dr Yada’s presentation, Adventures at the Food/NHP Interface​, will take place on Wednesday, May 16 at the NHPRS annual conference.

The annual conference’s main theme is "Innovation at the NHP/Food Interface​”. The full conference program​ will feature sessions on the following themes:

  • Regulatory and Policy Modernization at the NHP/Food Interface;
  • Cannabis;
  • Exploring the Pathway from Innovation to Commercialization at the NHP/Food Interface
  • DNA-based Approaches & Applications;
  • Product Quality;
  • Functional Foods;
  • Respectful Use of Traditional Knowledge;
  • NHPs and Cancer;
  • Pharmacology & Pharmacognosy; and
  • NHPs in Disease Management.

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