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Scientific experts say fish virus poses low risk to Fraser River sockeye

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VANCOUVER — The risk is minimal for a potentially lethal virus for British Columbia’s Fraser River sockeye salmon, but Fisheries and Oceans Canada says there’s still more to learn.

Federal government scientists were among 33 members of a peer review panel that looked at the data and risk assessment of piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV.

The virus is highly contagious and often found in fish farms off the B.C. coast, many of which are positioned along wild salmon migration routes.

According to a 2014 summary of facts from the environmental group Ecojustice, PRV was discovered in 2010 and is thought to cause a severe infectious fish disease known as heart and skeletal muscle inflammation.

Ecojustice said the disease was first observed in farmed Atlantic salmon in a single fish farm in Norway in 1999. At the time the summary was released, it said 419 farms were infected with the disease in Norway.

Gilles Olivier, who co-chaired the review for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said knowledge gaps about the virus include how long it survives and its concentration in the water.

While the virus is causing mortality in fish in Norway, it’s not killing British Columbia’s sockeye or Atlantic salmon even when it is injected in high doses, Olivier said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“It doesn’t seem to have the same effect in our Atlantic salmon here in B.C. than it does in Norway,” he said.

“There is no evidence to suggest that PRV causes disease and mortality in sockeye salmon.”

But the virus cannot be cultured and has a wide geographic distribution ranging from Alaska, to B.C. and into Washington state, Olivier said.

“It’s not easy to work with this virus.”

Most of the data comes from Norway, but in B.C. the strain of the virus is not as strong, he said.

Dr. Craig Stephen, who also co-chaired the review, said the research will continue and as more information becomes available the department will take that into consideration.

The Cohen commission investigated the 2009 collapse of the sockeye salmon run in the Fraser River and made 75 recommendations.

The virus risk assessment represents the sixth in a series of 10 assessments arising out of the commission’s recommendations.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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