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News and Opinion - January

  • BC life science firms secure financing and partnerships – Three life science firms in BC secured financing and high-profile partnerships in January. AbCellera Biologics, a WINN recipient, announced a multi-year collaboration with Pfizer to develop new antibody candidates using AbCellera’s proprietary antibody discovery platform. AbCellera will receive an upfront payment and research support and will be eligible to receive up to $90 million in contingent milestone payments, as well as royalties. Microbion Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in hard-to-treat and antibiotic-resistant infections, announced a US$25 million investment from Quark Ventures and GF Securities. Aspect Biosystems has entered into a research collaboration with DePuy Synthes Products, a division of Johnson & Johnson, to develop a three dimensional bioprinted knee meniscus using Aspect’s proprietary “Lab-on-a-Printer” 3D bioprinting platform. The intent is to develop a bioprinted tissue suitable for surgical therapy.
  • Winnipeg Airport surpasses initial growth estimates – The number of people passing through the Winnipeg airport grew by 7.6 per cent in 2016, far surpassing expectations. The Winnipeg Airports Authority credits the strong growth to a close working relationship with Travel Manitoba and Economic Development Winnipeg to build amenities and promote economic initiatives in the surrounding area. Talks with a prospective client are in the works to develop a 250-acre portion on the west side of the airport. This new development could add another 450 jobs to the 175 currently employed on the campus.
  • US approval of Keystone XL pipeline project – US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 24 to permit construction on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, subject to a renegotiation of some of the terms of the project, including the use of US steel. The US government had previously rejected the project’s application in November 2015. The proposed 1,897 km pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels a day of oil from Hardisty, AB to the US Gulf Coast. Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr has estimated that the construction of Keystone XL would result in 4,500 jobs in Canada.
  • AltaGas announces new propane facilities – Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd. has entered into a non-binding Letter of Intent with an unnamed Montney producer to construct a natural gas processing facility, a natural gas liquids separation train, and a rail terminal in Alberta. The facilities will be connected to the CN rail network, allowing AltaGas’ propane exports to reach its yet-to-be-built Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal near Prince Rupert, BC. AltaGas reached a positive final investment decision for the $475-million terminal on January 3 and will begin construction in early 2017. Also in January, the Wall Street Journal reported that AltaGas was negotiating a merger with Washington, D.C.,-based public utility holding company WGL Holdings Inc. in a deal worth US$5 billion to US$6 billion. The new facilities in Alberta and the export terminal are expected to be operational in 2019.
  • Southern Chiefs Organization elects new Grand Chief – Jerry Daniels was elected as Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, a group of Manitoban First Nations. Daniels won a close election against the incumbent Grand Chief, Terry Nelson, after four rounds of voting. His priorities as Grand Chief include restoring families, improving indigenous education, and creating a mentorship program for urban indigenous youth. Daniels is seen as part of a new generation of indigenous leaders in Manitoba, along with Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, and NDP MLA Wab Kinew.
  • Encanto Potash signs agreement with India – Encanto Potash has signed a 20-year agreement with the National Federation of Farmers’ Procurement, Processing and Retailing Cooperatives of India. Under the agreement, Encanto will sell five million tonnes of potash per year for the next 20 years to India. Encanto plans to build a mine on the Muskowekwan First Nation, some 100 kilometres northeast of Regina. Encanto estimates that the mine will cost $3 billion to build and will operate for 50 years. Muskowekwan First Nation will have a 100-per-cent share and full control over the mine, which will be the first potash mine in Saskatchewan on First Nations land. A start date for construction of the proposed mine has not yet been announced.
  • Oil pipeline leak in southern Saskatchewan – An estimated 200,000 litres of oil spilled from a pipeline onto agricultural land owned by the Ocean Man First Nation near Stoughton, roughly 140 kilometres southeast of Regina. The oil spill is contained in a low-lying area and has not entered any water sources. The source of the leak is a pipeline owned by Calgary-based Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd., who has been leading cleanup efforts. As of January 27, roughly 180,000 litres of oil have been recovered and over 450 tonnes of soil have been removed from the site. The Government of Saskatchewan has indicated that cleanup will continue until the site has been restored. Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment was first notified of the spill on January 20, 2017. Tundra Energy Marketing is a subsidiary of James Richardson & Sons, Ltd., a Winnipeg-based grain and energy corporation.