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Archive for category: News

Sherbrooke Start-Up makes its Presence Known

Étienne Lemieux, CEO and co-founder of the Sherbrooke-based company SPI Bio, won first prize in the PitchTech Competition. Mr. Lemieux and Dominic Carrier developed BioAlert, a device capable of quickly detecting the presence of legionella in industrial and commercial cooling equipment.

The competition was held as part of the fourth edition of Batimatech, an annual event that brings together several entrepreneurs from the building, technology and sustainable development sectors. Some 15 participants were asked to present the product invented by their company in the form of a sales pitch in front of 300 people and had to demonstrate why it is an innovation in the technological sector.

It’s the first automated on-site detector for legionella bacteria,” confirms Mr. Lemieux in an interview with La Tribune. It’s like a smoke detector, but for water contamination. It allows for absolute risk management. We’re thinking of changing the game because currently on the market these tests have a 14-day delay and we’re able to get a result the same day as the sample is taken. We are being proactive and reactive. »

“If an elevator kills a person, we shut down the building, if an airplane creates a risk, we’ll keep a whole fleet on the ground, but every year 4,000 people die because of legionella bacteria and we barely put rules in place to control the risk,” he imagines.

Legionella pneumophila is a bacterium that grows and multiplies in the water used to cool the air in industries and commercial establishments. A contaminated cooling tower discharges fine droplets of water outdoors, which are then inhaled by people within a 12-kilometre radius.

A person who is contaminated with this bacteria can get legionellosis, a disease that attacks the lungs in the form of pneumonia and in some cases can be fatal.

In July 2012, a single contaminated cooling tower caused an outbreak of legionellosis and more than 180 people in Quebec City were affected by it. Unfortunately, 14 victims died.

The young Sherbrooke company has already delivered six to the federal government. Étienne Lemieux ensures that its order book is well filled.

Article found here: https://www.latribune.ca/affaires/une-start-up-sherbrookoise-fait-sa-marque-9e745e2c2dbd3d14f8c2cf0248cebb72

The perfect combination of two expertises

In Quebec City in 2012, a single legionella-contaminated cooling tower infected 181 people and killed 14 of them. This situation, which required a major investigation, led to the provincial government’s adoption in 2014 of new regulations for cooling towers in buildings, where the bacteria can accumulate and be released into the ambient air. In 2017 in Granby, nine people were diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease. Although no one died, the Public Health Department in the Estrie region worked hard to find the cause, but to no avail. What if there was a device capable of quickly and automatically detecting the presence of legionella in cooling towers, the bacteria responsible for causing legionellosis, a potentially fatal lung infection in humans? That device now exists – the BioAlert, created by the young Sherbrooke-based company SpiBio. The idea for the device was born on a kitchen counter somewhere in 2010, thanks to the expertise of two roommates. Indeed, Étienne Lemieux was finishing his PhD in cellular biology, while his roommate Dominic Carrier was finishing his master’s degree in electrical engineering. So what are the links between cell biology and electrical engineering? In current practice, these two disciplines are rarely used in the same project. But to create a device capable of automatically treating legionella levels in water, it was the perfect mesh! “We had a lot of discussions together and came up with this idea,” says Lemieux. “It’s biochemical expertise coupled with engineering. Our two areas of expertise allowed us to think outside the box,” he adds. It took four years to launch the company SpiBio, which negotiated a few tight turns before it had the wind in its sails today. After working as hard as they did, it was in 2017 that the two friends and business partners were able to do their first technological validations thanks to partners with whom they installed the BioAlert. In 2018, commercialization began on a small scale. Today, the work team is growing and the order book is filling up quickly: in July, SpiBio has 12 employees and new employees will be hired shortly. For some time now, the company has been located in Espace LABz, a multi-tenant centre managed by Sherbrooke Innopole and aimed at companies working in the life sciences or clean technology sectors. The market for BioAlert is huge. In Quebec, there are an estimated 2,600 cooling towers. In the United States, there would be between 250,000 and 300,000. There are cooling towers in many residential towers, and the market is large, but to start with, it is the commercial market that SpiBio will tackle. “The commercial market is easier because managers know the significant costs associated with closing a cooling tower in a plant, for example,” says Étienne Lemieux. Interest in the Sherbrooke product – and a majority of its suppliers are Canadian – is starting to be felt by several customers who have a wide reach with several facilities around the world. So the future is bright for the two accomplices and business partners. A future fraught with many challenges, however. “We are fortunate to have very understanding spouses, because it’s not easy to live with an entrepreneur. It’s almost obsessive,” notes Étienne Lemieux. Both partners want to prevent the spread of legionella, given that a single cooling tower can contaminate a radius of three to 12 kilometres around it. That’s what happened in the case of Quebec City in 2012. “We have found a real problem, and it is a problem that matches our ambition. A lot of people have failed before us. Now we’re spreading our wings,” says Carrier, adding that the technology they developed to detect Legionella could be used to detect other bacteria. “Our ambition is to create something bigger than ourselves,” concludes Lemieux. Article found here: https://www.latribune.ca/actualites/merite-estrien/laccord-parfait-de-deux-expertises-974e9db4a3f578c5db8ecab75083a001

Diversity in the spotlight at the 27th Gala

The Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec (RJCCQ) highlighted the excellence of the province’s young business people and entrepreneurs this Friday, June 14, at the 27th Gala Les Grands Prix de la Relève d’Affaires.

Presented by the Banque Nationale, the gala was chaired by Patrick Lemelin, Vice-President of Agriculture and Agri-Food at the National Bank, and presented 14 awards, in addition to bringing together more guests from across the province, from Havre-Saint-Pierre to Gatineau, via the Saguenay and Terrebonne.

“Given the quality of the finalists, Quebec’s future is in good hands. It is important to recognize the considerable contribution of young business people to our economy and to offer them the support, guidance and visibility essential to their development and the deployment of their full potential, throughout the province,” added Maximilien Roy, President and CEO of the RJCCQ.

Several dignitaries and influential personalities from the business world were present for the occasion. Among them were Ms. Danièle Henkel, President and founder of Entreprises Danièle Henkel Inc, Ms. Isabelle Dessureault, international mentor and member of Anges Québec, and Mr. Younes Boukala, Councillor – District J.-Émery-Provost, Lachine Borough. The evening was masterfully hosted by Mrs. Meriem Idrissi Kaitouni, Senior Advisor, Public and Corporate Affairs, Edelman Montreal.

The 14 winners were honoured for their leadership, achievements, innovation and unfailing track record.

Article found in: https://www.lesoleil.com/la-vitrine/la-diversite-a-lhonneur-pour-le-27e-gala-abc9b30e801ea4f5aa1e019bb23e444e

A New Technology Invented to Detect the Presence of Legionella Pneumophila

In the summer of 2012, the city of Quebec was affected by a Legionnaires’ outbreak. In total, over 180 cases were counted and 14 people unfortunately passed away from the disease. A new technology invented by a Sherbrooke-based company can now help prevent such events.

Article found in the Canadian magazine, Maintenance Immobilière : https://issuu.com/jbcom/docs/maintenance_v9n1

See article here: https://issuu.com/jbcom/docs/maintenance_v9n1

A device originating from Quebec to prevent Legionnaire’s Disease

The Estrie-based company SPI Bio has developed a device capable of rapidly detecting the presence of legionella, the bacterium responsible for legionellosis, an infection that affected 181 people in the Quebec City area in 2012, killing 12. The device, which attaches to the cooling towers where the bacteria attaches itself, can also work in hot water systems, park fountains and spas. Catherine Perrin speaks with Étienne Lemieux, co-founder of SPI Bio.

Listen to the french interview here: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/medium-large/segments/entrevue/98743/appareil-quebecois-prevenir-legionellose-lemieux

Article found in: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/medium-large/segments/entrevue/98743/appareil-quebecois-prevenir-legionellose-lemieux