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Author: Chris McLeod

We’re hiring: Digital Marketing Manager

Purpose and Reporting Structure of the Role

As the Digital Marketing Manager, you’ll be working as part of our marketing and communication team in the day-to-day execution of our marketing plans and play a key role in attracting international investment to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Understanding and developing web environments, audience personas, building journey maps, and designing automation campaigns and segmentation strategies will be core activities of this role. We use Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot to ensure our activities are trackable and always improving. The ideal candidate has a strong mix of experience in the marketing functions of CRM, SEO and SEM, designing segmented campaigns, UX, and web design. 

Reporting to the Director, Marketing and Communications, you will be responsible for continuously developing and improving email marketing campaigns, optimizing existing campaigns, campaign analysis, and report creation. The ideal candidate will have a strategic, analytical, and collaborative mindset with the ability to manage projects, bring people together, and inspire confidence in a digital approach to marketing.

Responsibilities

  • Partner with a cross-functional team to create marketing programs that support and account-based marketing approach.
  • Own the segmentation, scheduling, and sending of investor-focused email, mobile, and web campaigns.
  • Provide expertise in marketing automation processes and campaign management including planning, execution, testing and reporting for marketing automation campaigns (including inbound, lead nurturing, lead scoring and lead management).
  • Partner with colleagues to drive the strategic adoption of Salesforce and Pardot and successfully manage the day-to-day technical development of data integration, strategic data extracts, and email automation.
  • In partnership with our research and market intelligence team, oversee email database integrity, hygiene, and growth.
  • Assist in development of responsive, best-in-class, and segmented email templates.
  • Aid in managing email deliverability, subscription management, and compliance with policy on opt-in/out.
  • Oversee new data and advise on data use for targeting, personalization, configuration, strategy, and reporting.
  • Analyze data from analytics and assist in implementation improvements.
  • Identify areas of improvement and make actionable recommendations to increase operational efficiencies and internal user adoption.
  • Develop documentation of current processes and future enhancements.
  • Build and maintain working relationships with business development, research and market intelligence, strategy and innovation, the region’s economic development network, and vendors.
  • Provide reporting and analysis on program performance data and funnel attribution.
  • Monitoring and continually improving campaigns (iteration, A/B testing, etc.).
  • Stay abreast of current marketing automation trends, best practices, and strategies.
  • Collaborate on enriching the content, experience, and performance of Edmonton Global’s web presence. 
  • Support the activities of Edmonton Global as required within a team-based culture.

Qualifications

The successful candidate will be an adaptive and dynamic individual comfortable working in a fast-paced organization and embody Edmonton Global’s core values: integrity, collaborative, empowered, transformative, and invested.  

The following skills, experiences and aptitudes will also be required.

Education and Experience:

  • A bachelor’s degree in marketing, business or related field is preferred.
  • 4+ years of digital marketing experience.
  • Strong experience in Salesforce/Pardot would be an asset.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office programs.
  • Motivated self-starter with optimistic outlook that can collaborate and work effectively in a close team dynamic focused on supporting multiple teams.
  • Must have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Must have ability to multi-task in a demanding/quick turn environment.
  • Requires hands on strategic execution.
  • Must have excellent organizational skills and attention to detail.
  • Knowledge of email marketing best practices.
  • Creative problem solver and who can effectively collaborate with a range of stakeholders to successfully accomplish goals. 
  • Proficiency in languages beyond English would be an asset. 
  • Knowledge of web traffic management tools (Google analytics, Google ads).
  • Analytic mindset for targeting the appropriate population and understanding their behaviours.
  • Demonstrated experience with a CRM and web automation tool is essential (Salesforce, Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Tableau, etc.).
  • Innovative, creative and results driven.

Requirements of the Position

  • A valid driver’s license in good standing. 
  • A valid passport as travel regionally, nationally and internationally may be required.

Compensation

Will be competitive and based on skills and experience.

Application Process

Please email us at aborman@edmontonglobal.ca noting “Application: Digital Marketing Manager” in the subject line, with your cover letter and resume attached by Friday, December 11.  

We thank all applicants for their interest, but only short-listed applicants will be contacted. If you have questions about the process or the position, please contact our Office Manager at aborman@edmontonglobal.ca.

Edmonton Global is an equal opportunity employer and we value the diversity of people and communities. We are committed to an environment that is inclusive and barrier free. If you require accommodation during the hiring process, please inform us in advance to arrange reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

Canada introduces more study and work permit flexibility

Three new measures have been introduced to help individuals pursue Canadian study and work opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada has just announced three major measures to help individuals who wish to pursue Canadian education and work opportunities.

In a news release just issued on its website, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has introduced the following three new measures on Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligibility for international students pursuing their Canadian educational programs online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Students can now study online while overseas up until April 30, 2021 with no time deducted from the length of their PGWP, so long as they complete 50 per cent of their studies in Canada.
  • Students who have signed up for a program that is 8-12 months in duration with a start date from May to September 2020 will be able to complete their entire program abroad and still be eligible for a PGWP.
  • Students who enrolled in a program with a start date between May and September 2020 and study online up to April 30, 2021 and who graduate from more than one eligible program may be able to combine the length of their programs of study when they apply for a PGWP, as long as 50 per cent of the studies are completed in Canada.

The PGWP is highly coveted among individuals who wish to study in Canada. After a student completes an eligible program at a Canadian designated learning institution (e.g., a university or college), they can obtain a PGWP for a maximum duration of three years. The ultimate duration of the PGWP depends on the length of time the individual studied at a Canadian DLI.

The PGWP enables these former international students to then work for any Canadian employer. Former students hoping to become Canadian permanent residents seek to harness the work experience they gain to enhance their Canadian immigration chances.

Gaining Canadian work experience can make individuals eligible for certain immigration pathways such as Express Entry‘s Canadian Experience Class program. It can also provide them with additional points under Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System.

Because of the pandemic and Canada’s current travel restrictions, many international students are not able to enter Canada at the moment. This has been problematic for a number of reasons. One such reason is that prior to the pandemic, distance learning could not count towards PGWP eligibility.

This changed shortly after the pandemic when IRCC made a series of announcements to enable online learning to count towards PGWP eligibility. The last major announcement came in May when IRCC stated online learning obtained up until December 31, 2020 could be counted when eventually applying for a PGWP.

In order to be eligible for these measures, students need to have submitted a study permit application before starting a program of study in the spring/summer/fall 2020 semester or for the January 2021 semester. Students must be eventually approved for a study permit.

IRCC concluded its news release by saying that Canada’s COVID-19 related restrictions will be eased based on progress made in Canada and abroad in containing the coronavirus’ spread. IRCC will continue to monitor the Canadian and international situation as it explores additional changes to make.

THE ALBERTA PETROCHEMICALS INCENTIVE PROGRAM WILL ENHANCE ALBERTA’S ABILITY TO ATTRACT INVESTMENT

July 9, 2020 – Fort Saskatchewan – The Government of Alberta today announced the Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program (APIP), designed to attract value-add petrochemical investments and encourage continued growth in the advanced chemical manufacturing sector. 

“The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program, as announced today, will have a significant impact on enhancing the competitiveness of Alberta when attracting large scale, value-add investments, relative to other global jurisdictions,” said Mark Plamondon, Executive Director of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association. “This program, coupled with the other tremendous competitive advantages that Alberta’s Industrial Heartland has to offer, will contribute to the attraction of an expected $30 billion in new petrochemical investments by 2030.” 

With cost-advantaged natural resources, a diverse and skilled workforce, and world class infrastructure, including world-leading carbon capture and storage infrastructure, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is well-positioned to leverage the new Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program and we believe it will help attract formidable investment to our region. With more than 95% of the world’s manufactured products relying on chemistry and value-add manufacturing, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is part of a global supply chain that produces more than 70,000 products that we use every day. Alberta is a shining example of how jurisdictions can stimulate the economy and demonstrate environmental leadership by recognizing the importance of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. 

ABOUT ALBERTA’S INDUSTRIAL HEARTLAND ASSOCIATION 

The Industrial Heartland region is considered a world-class location for petrochemical, manufacturing, oil and gas investment and is also Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region. It is a powerful economic driver for Alberta and Canada and offers attractive competitive advantages in energy diversification and industrial development. 

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association is dedicated to coordinating, advocating, and promoting responsible industrial development in the Heartland region. The Association is a cooperative effort of Lamont County, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County, and the Cities of Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. 

Media Contact: 

Tracey Hill, Manager of Communications & Community Relations 
tracey@industrialheartland.com / 780-998-7453 

World’s-largest airport solar farm arriving at EIA

Alpin Sun to build 627-acre facility on west-side of airport lands.

July 7, 2020 (Edmonton, AB) – Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is welcoming a new large-scale investment that will create the largest airport-based solar farm in the world. 

Airport City Solar will dramatically transform the west-side of EIA’s lands, create jobs and bring in a potential new power source for airport operations and the Edmonton Metro Region. An agreement with Alpin Sun will see the company develop a 627-acre, 120-megawatt solar farm. All available information shows this will be largest development of its kind at an airport anywhere in the world. The new solar farm reflects EIA’s on-going commitment to economic development and diversification, along with its core value of being dedicated to sustainability.

The European-based company, Alpin Sun, is a global developer of utility scale renewable projects and is proposing to locate Airport City Solar on land leased on the west side of the EIA.  Airport City Solar is expected to begin construction in early 2022 and be operational by the end of the year. The project will bring in an estimated $169 million in foreign direct investment to the Edmonton Metro Region. Power generated by Airport City Solar will feed into Fortis Alberta and airport distribution systems.

“One of our core principles is being dedicated to sustainability. With Airport City Solar and Alpin Sun we’re creating something the whole world will notice. We’re Canada’s largest airport by land size so we have the space to do something very special – the largest solar farm at an airport in the world. This will create jobs, provide sustainable solar power for our region and shows our dedication to sustainability.”

– Tom Ruth, President and CEO Edmonton International Airport.

Quick facts about Airport City Solar:

  • Construction will employ 120 workers for a year, with up to 250 workers at its peak
  • The 120Mwh facility will generate approximately 200,000 MWh per year
  • Alpin Sun estimates that annual production of 200,000 MWh will result in an annual offset of an estimated 106,000 tonnes of CO2.
  • Airport City Solar will consist of approximately 340,000 solar panels 
  • The facility will produce enough electricity to power between 27,000-28,000 homes
  • The facility area of 627 acres will equal roughly 313 CFL football fields
  • The panels will be constructed in two main groupings
    • East grouping will be 367 acres that would accommodate 72 MW
    • West grouping will be 259 acres that would accommodate 48 MW

“It has been a pleasure working with EIA Vice-President Myron Keehn and Director Geoff Herdman to bring this opportunity to the EIA, and their support was key to our location decision.”

– Adrian Ioance, Vice President of Alpin Sun 

“We want to add to Alberta’s recovery momentum and be in a position by 2022 to not only support existing industries and communities in the area but also serve as a catalyst for new investment in advanced technology and logistics.”

– Fred Null, Director of Project Development, Alpin Sun 

“This fully private-sector investment in the world’s largest airport solar farm will create hundreds of jobs and represents an investment of nearly $170 million. The project, when combined with other recent exciting investments in renewables, shows that Alberta is the most attractive place in Canada to invest, not just in renewable energy, but across all sectors of the economy.” 

– Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism

“Leduc County welcomes Alpin-Sun to the region. Within Leduc County, EIA is a regional leader in diversification and innovation. Alpin-Sun will not only bring business diversification, but new development and employment opportunities to Leduc County residents and the region.” 

– Tanni Doblanko, Mayor of Leduc County 

“This exciting project demonstrates the growing role of solar energy in Alberta’s economy. Private sector investments like this show the strength of Alberta’s solar resource across much of the province, including in and around Edmonton. EIA is demonstrating leadership by harnessing the competitive economics of solar to establish the airport and surrounding transportation corridors as a hub for the solar value chain in this part of North America. This bodes well for jobs and economic benefits in the region well into the future.”

– Benjamin Thibault, Executive Director, Solar Alberta 

“EIA runs one of the world’s most innovative airports and in recent years has attracted more than $1 billion in investment and thousands of quality jobs through Airport City and economic diversification. Alpin Sun’s major investment combined with EIA’s focus on innovation will create significant value for airlines. Welcome to our region Alpin Sun, we look forward to seeing this investment begin construction.” 

– Malcom Bruce, CEO Edmonton Global

EIA is dedicated to sustainability and continuing its record of environmental initiatives. Other examples of how EIA supports environmental sustainability see:

Over the next year, the Alpin Sun team will conduct extensive studies and seek approvals from the required local, provincial and federal regulatory agencies, including NAV Canada. Field Law of Edmonton assists Alpin Sun on legal matters related to this project and others in Alberta, and DNV-GL of Calgary assists on environmental studies and permitting.  Colliers International – Edmonton’s YEG Team, led by Evelyn Stolk & Rod Connop as well as Colliers International – Philadelphia brokered this transaction.

About Edmonton International Airport

Edmonton International Airport is a self-funded, not-for-profit corporation whose mandate is to drive economic prosperity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian airport by land area. EIA offers non-stop connections to destinations across Canada, the US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. EIA is a major economic driver; in 2019, EIA had an economic output of more than $3.2 billion, supporting over 26,000 jobs. EIA’s Airport City propels new jobs, tourism and economic diversification – and creates a destination in and around EIA, featuring entertainment, e-commerce, retail, hospitality, cargo/logistics, bio-pharma, light manufacturing and many other industries. EIA is focused on digital strategy to ensure it becomes the airport of the future. For more information, please visit: flyeia.com, follow @flyeia on TwitterInstagramLinkedin or Facebook.

About Alpin Sun

Alpin Sun is a European based renewable energy company active in the development, construction, operation, and ownership of solar projects across the globe.  During its 10-year history, the company has been involved in four gigawatts of solar projects in Europe, Chile, Canada, and the USA.

Alpin Sun performs engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) work in Europe and focuses on project development in the USA and Canada. The North American portfolio, to date, comprises three gigawatt of solar sites spread among the electric service territories of ERCOT (Texas), SPP (Texas), PJM (mid-Atlantic USA), and AESO (Alberta) with more than one gigawatt currently under construction or in preparation for construction.

Alpin Sun’s development pipeline serves as an investment platform for institutional investors, independent power producers (non-utility generators), and utilities by providing high-quality projects designed with state-of-the-art technology for top economic performance.

Media Contact: 

Chris Chodan, EIA   
c: 780 700 3596 
e: cchodan@flyeia.com

Adrian Ioance, 
Alpin Sun, Vice-President Business Development
c: +1 888 963 8033
e: adrian.ioance@alpin-sun.de

Global Briefing: Business and Economy of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region

On Friday, April 24, Edmonton Global hosted a briefing on the economic and business implications of the combined crisis of Covid-19 and the crash of global oil prices.

A video recording of the session is available below. Please contact us at info@edmontonglobal.ca if you have questions or would like to schedule a similar briefing for your organization.

During the briefing, a white paper, Road to Recovery: Resiliency was highlighted. This white paper is intended to provide input and recommendations to the Province of Alberta in managing aspects of Alberta’s recovery. It is included below for your information.

For additional background on this, please see an Opinion Piece from Edmonton Global’s Vice President, Lynette Tremblay: Now is the time for bold ideas and action.

Consider Canada City Alliance Impact of COVID-19 on FDI activities in Canada

Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. | www.considercanada.com 

Proposal to Government of Canada from Consider Canada City Alliance on the impact of COVID-19 on FDI activities in Canada  

Attention: 

Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance 
Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry 
Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
Hon. Melanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages 

Background: 

The Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. (CCCA) unites twelve of Canada’s largest Economic Development Agencies to promote investment around the world where upwards of 85% of all net new GDP growth is occurring in the major urban centres in Canada. The members stretch from the Atlantic coast in the East to the Pacific coast in the West and include Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo Region, Hamilton, London, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. 

The members strongly believe that metro regions/cities play an increasingly critical role in global economic flows and that a nation’s value proposition for trade and investment is best presented through an integration of the efforts at the national and regional levels. Ultimately investor decisions are made by the company at a local level. CCCA is unique in the world in its capability to have twelve regional/city level economic efforts and the national government collaborate and cooperate in presenting Canada’s value proposition to foreign investors. We emphasize Canada’s financial and political stability, and cost competitiveness and the talent and innovation capacity in our member. 

Issues & Anticipated Impacts: 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has and will continue to have a significant impact on investor confidence, directly impacting the mandates of CCCA members in attracting foreign investment. According to a UN Conference of Trade & Development report published on March 8th, COVID-19 has been estimated to reduce foreign direct investment (FDI) by 5%-15%. The UN trade body warns that flows may hit their lowest levels since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, should the pandemic continue throughout the year. 

All CCCA members are experiencing immediate effects of COVID-19 on their FDI programs and anticipating long-term effects that will impact annual metrics by 50% or more with many active projects put on hold or halted altogether and members expressed concerns sustaining long-term opportunities in their pipelines. Competition for FDI has become increasingly intense; the post-pandemic reality will heighten the level of competition as our international counterparts look to ignite their recovery process in a vastly changing global market setting. Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. | www.considercanada.com 

Our membership has developed a set of recommended measures for consideration: 

1. Local Direct Investment 

As the global impact of COVID-19 unfolds, there are actions that will assist in driving stimulus in the domestic market space. This focus on local will make Canada significantly more globally competitive. Three recommendations are: 

  • Eliminating Inter-provincial Trade Barriers – The Conference Board of Canada indicates a potential GDP growth of 4% by developing Canadian supply chain opportunities for SMEs. With less than 15% of Canadian companies established as exporters, the potential for regional business growth is strong. 
  • Infrastructure – Labour Force slack is a significant concern. Infrastructure projects need to be focused on mass employment which may mean pivoting labour from one sector to others with higher needs. It also means investing in what will make Canada more globally competitive to attract investment: traditional investment; in airports, ports (coastal & inland), rail and road (twinning the entire trans Canada as an example); and, future need such as 5G or 6G networks. 
  • Accelerating SuperCluster Activation – We support the Federal call and the recent enhancement to the Advance Manufacturing SuperCluster (NGen) to accelerate the activation of the SuperClusters. We support the consideration of additional net new SuperClusters. This will result in enhancing the Value Proposition globally in Investment attraction by building more regional capability. 

2. Creation of FDI/Trade Steering Committee 

Coordination with the federal government’s, respective departments, agencies and staff will be critical in the economic recovery of our country. CCCA members represent over 85% of Canada’s economic activity; with the collective strength and coordination of Canada’s 12 largest economic regions, the federal government can benefit from having a direct line into recovery efforts and investor confidence. We recommend regional representation from CCCA membership in addition to staff from PCO, ISED, Health Canada, Ministry of International Trade, Global Affairs Canada and Invest in Canada, as members of this committee, virtually meeting initially on a weekly basis. With a mandate of navigating the post-COVID19 stabilization and recovery efforts and a strong return to international markets. 

3. Enhancing the Federal Impact 

Successful foreign investment deals are strongly dependent on close collaboration with all levels of government. CCCA members continue to play an integral role in Canada’s efforts to increase investment and trade globally. At the core of its values, our members believe that regions/cities play a critical role in the Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. | www.considercanada.com 

global economic flow and are the best representative of the unique value propositions for inbound investment and trade in Canada, represented by each of these regions. The federal government has a few tools available in supporting these efforts; below is a list of recommended modifications, enhancement of existing tools and creation of new ones: i. Re-directing approved CanExport funding 

With outbound travel suspended indefinitely, lead generation and travel activities related to CanExport funding will not be fully activated. Members would like to see approved program funding re-directed to other project components, such as research, travel, training or marketing material with consideration given to waiving the requirement of matching funding

  • FDI retention funding 

Redirect CanExport funding or create a new support system to support FDI retention within member regions. As the economic hardships resulting from this pandemic begin to spread globally, there is concern amongst the members that established multinationals may look to reduce their global footprints and shutdown satellite sites.

  • Further Investment in remote tools 

Programs to provide training and a better understanding of how to fully use new tools for remote FDI activities that could better position our members and their staff once international attraction activity resumes. Purchasing FDI data and recruitment tools are a costly expense to organizations, CCCA has been in contact with Invest in Canada previously to act as a wholesaler for these data sets. 

  • Investment in creating Marketing & Communication tools 

Our members believe a united Canadian front will continue to be key for the success of this alliance and continued investment into Canada. This crisis can act as an opportunity for creation of a harmonized Canadian message. In collaboration with in Invest in Canada create digital marketing material will allow members to push the investment message and Canada as the best destination for investment. 

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy 

Most foreign companies CCCA members attract to Canada tend to incorporate as a non-Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (non CCPC) we need clarification on the whether non-CCPC will be eligible for the recently announced wage subsidy. If they are not included it would be counter intuitive to our joint efforts to attract these companies, and upon an unforeseen global pandemic they are not captured by any country – either their home country or Canada – for financial assistance. We would strongly recommend including non-CCPC companies, particularly those with North American HQ located in Canada, into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program. Consider Canada City Alliance Inc. | www.considercanada.com 

Supporting FDI in the post-pandemic economy: 

Members would like to work with the Government to build a better understanding of the new “normal” for FDI and to address adapting existing FDI funding programs to provide greater flexibility on the use of funds while reducing reporting administration. Discussions should also include alternative FDI funding programs specifically focused on supporting investment attraction activities during the recovery period. These pan Canadian programs could include incentives, training, marketing support and targeted competitive measures. BRE programs and investments become critical in stabilizing and rebuilding our economy by holding and developing the interests of foreign multinationals in Canada. 

Canada has always been a safe and prosperous nation for foreign investment. We believe the state of FDI in Canada will depend on how we commercially pivot from the COVID-19 pandemic with clear emphasis on domestic economy to restore and build on the confidence of foreign investors who have already made commitments to our economy while pursuing new investment opportunities. CCCA provides these recommendations to open an urgent dialogue to work together and activate the right blend of deliberate measures to ensure a bright future for Canada. 

Sincerely, 

CCCA Members 

Wendy Luther, President and CEO | Halifax Partnership 
Carl Viel, President and CEO | Quebec International 
Stéphane Paquet, President and CEO | Montreal International 
Mike Tremblay, President and CEO| Invest Ottawa 
Mark Cohon, Chair | Toronto Global 
Tony La Mantia, President and CEO | Waterloo Regional Economic Development Corporation 
Norm Schleehahn, Director| Invest in Hamilton 
Kapil Lakhotia, President and CEO | London Economic Development 
Dayna Spiring, President and CEO | Economic Development Winnipeg 
Mary Moran, President and CEO | Calgary Economic Development 
Malcolm Bruce, CEO | Edmonton Global 
Eleena Marley, Acting CEO | Vancouver Economic Commission 

CCCA contact: Niloo Boroun, Executive Director | niloo@considercanada.com | 416-689-2304 

How the U of A’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology is responding to the COVID-19 crisis

Lorne Tyrrell, founding director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, says some of Canada’s top virologists at the institute are focusing on research into diagnostic tests, antiviral drugs and vaccines against the new coronavirus. (Photo: Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry)

Institute was designed for rapid response to viral pandemic.

When word started to trickle out of China in early January that a new and deadly virus was spreading fast, Lorne Tyrrell immediately pulled together more than 20 members of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, including some of Canada’s top virologists, to brainstorm how they could help.

By the time the Government of Canada announced $26.8 million for research into COVID-19, University of Alberta teams had 17 project proposals ready to go, three of which were immediately funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The others were poised to begin work as soon as more funding became available.

The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology was set up at the U of A in 2010 to be ready for a moment just like this.

“We support research in emerging diseases,” said Tyrrell, a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, GSK Chair in Virology and a leading hepatitis B researcher.

“The public health response to a pandemic must be immediate, and the research-based responses to find antivirals and vaccines must also begin within days or weeks.”

Carla Craveiro Salvado, operations and research manager of the institute, said researchers with knowledge and experience of other viruses are always poised to pivot and deliver the rapid response required when a new pandemic hits.

“It was very exciting to see everyone energized and committed to the same goal, to see what we can do collectively to fight this virus from several different aspects,” she said.

Projects seek test, treatment and vaccine for COVID-19

Among those in the room for the brainstorming session were virologists David Evans and Tom Hobman, infectious disease specialist Nelson Lee, and Graham Tipples, medical-scientific director of Alberta Public Laboratories and associate adjunct professor of microbiology and immunology.

After CIHR’s call for rapid responses to COVID-19, “we had a week to write grant proposals,” Tyrrell said. “They were reviewed over a weekend and we were notified right away.” 

The rapid response grant projects must be completed within two years.

Matthias Götte’s newly published research into remdesivir, a drug proven to be active against Ebola virus but with even more activity against two other deadly members of the coronavirus family—severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)—was immediately fast-tracked. The drug works by attacking the polymerase of the viruses—enzymes that allow them to replicate. Götte, a biochemist and chair of medical microbiology and immunology, had already cloned polymerases for many of the RNA viruses considered by the World Health Organization as most likely to emerge as threats to human health.

“Because Götte had the polymerase set up for MERS and SARS and he’d tested the compound in those two, he’s now able to test it against COVID-19 and we hope it will have a similar effect,” said Tyrrell.

Biochemistry professor Joanne Lemieux, director of the U of A’s Membrane Protein Disease Research Group, received funding to investigate protease inhibitors, a class of antiviral drugs that also block replication of viruses.

And Chris Le, director of analytical and environmental toxicology in the U of A’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, is working on diagnostic tests that could be used to identify patients infected with COVID-19 at home or in remote settings.

More funding has now been announced by the federal government, and the second round includes support for a potential vaccine proposed by Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute; for Timothy Caulfield to map and address misinformation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak; for Michael James to work toward the development of an anti-COVID-19 therapeutic; and for Matthew Croxen, who is sequencing the RNA of coronavirus, among others.

Overall, 11 U of A projects received $5.8 million in funding from the federal government’s Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research competition.

Three-pronged approach to fight the pandemic

The institute recently received samples of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Permits were obtained to work with the virus. Level three containment precautions were put in place several years ago to accommodate work with pathogens such as COVID-19. The institute has custom-built sealed labs that allow researchers to work safely with deadly pathogens. Workers wear special gowns, masks and headgear to protect their eyes. 

“It’s a little more awkward to work in because you’re fully protected all the time,” said Tyrrell.

The U of A researchers will co-operate and collaborate with other major virology labs in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, as well as others around the world.

Tyrrell pointed out that a concerted worldwide approach will be needed to quell COVID-19. 

“The concern about COVID-19 is that it has a higher transmissibility than either MERS or SARS,” said Tyrrell. “The transmission rate seems to be 2.2 people for every one person infected. It also has a significant mortality rate at about three per cent.”

“Strong public health measures such as self-isolation, social distancing and avoiding large public gatherings at the beginning of an epidemic will try to change that infection rate curve.

“The second thing we need desperately is approved antivirals to be used in people who are sick enough to end up in hospital. New effective antivirals would help to take some of the fear out of this situation and would likely decrease hospitalization and mortality rates.

“And the third thing—just like with influenza—we need a vaccine against COVID-19, to try to decrease the number of people who get infected,” Tyrrell said. 

He added that while public health measures were successful in slowing both SARS and MERS, a vaccine is usually required to stop the destruction caused by highly infectious viruses. 

“The only two viruses in the world that we know have been completely eliminated are smallpox and rinderpest, an animal infection, and that was done by vaccination,” Tyrrell said.

Rapid response to potential chronic fatigue virus and Zika virus

“We did set up in the beginning so that we would have funding to sponsor rapid responses to new viruses,” said Tyrrell, who pooled funding from numerous sources to found the institute. Hong Kong businessman Li Ka Shing donated $25 million to establish an endowment to operate the institute. The Canada Foundation for Innovationfunded research infrastructure grants (Evans and Tyrrell) to the tune of $35 million. The Alberta government promised a further $5 million a year in recognition of the potential to diversify the economy by turning research discoveries into profitable pharmaceutical products. At least five products were brought to market by researchers prior to the institute’s establishment and more are coming to build on that track record. 

“The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology has focused on research and discoveries, and the Applied Institute focuses on how to take those discoveries to benefit patients,” said Tyrrell.

The first time the institute’s rapid response was called into action was when researchers in Nevada announced a retrovirus called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) was the likely cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. 

“As it turned out, that discovery was false,” said Tyrrell. “It was very important because a lot of people suffer from chronic fatigue and if there was a virus there, we wanted to confirm it. But there were several labs around the world, including ours, that could not confirm it, and the original paper was retracted.”

The institute’s next rapid response target was Zika virus. Tom Hobman, Canada Research Chair in RNA Viruses and Host Interactions, has since become Canada’s top researcher in the quest to understand, treat and vaccinate against Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that causes birth defects.

“We had some flexible money within the institute to support that rapid response,” said Tyrrell. “Flexible funds are key to supporting discovery.”

Tyrrell recounted how, when he was dean of the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Ray Rajotte stood to lose his research team on islet cell transplant due to a lack of funding. A one-time injection of flexible funds from donors in 1999 allowed them time to publish what became known as the Edmonton Protocol, a groundbreaking method to treat Type 1 diabetes.

“The flexible funding helped to keep the team together until further funding could be procured. The current situation is similar. Although we have funding from CIHR, we have some excellent researchers who desperately need funding for the full-court press to control COVID-19,” said Tyrrell.

City of St. Albert Announces New 600,000 SF Distribution Centre Development

The City of St. Albert and QuadReal Property Group are pleased to announce the development of a 600,000 square foot distribution facility for the exclusive use of Uline, North America’s leading shipping supply specialist, at Anthony Henday Business Park (AHBP) in St. Albert. The project will break ground in 2020 and will welcome nearly 100 employees when the facility opens in 2021.

“This is a significant indication of confidence in St. Albert and we are pleased to welcome Uline to our community,” says Mayor Cathy Heron. “It signals that municipal investment in infrastructure will reward us with new businesses, diversified economy and help us achieve our desired taxation split.”

Uline is the leading distributor of shipping, industrial and packaging materials to businesses throughout North America. It is a family-owned company with a focus on providing excellent service, significant inventory and quality products. Uline offers same-day shipping on over 37,500 products from their 812-page catalog and state-of-the-art eCommerce website.

“QuadReal is thrilled to welcome Uline to AHBP,” says Carly Zapernick Manager of Development at QuadReal Property Group. “We worked closely with Uline to develop a unique property to meet their needs—not only for their Western Canada distribution centre. We look forward to further collaboration with companies of this calibre to fuel future industrial and commercial development both here in St. Albert and throughout the region.”

 “We are excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the vibrant and bustling community of St. Albert,” says Branch Manager of Uline, Paul Symonds. “We look forward to opening the new facility, and remain committed to investing in our employees, facilities and technology to support our growing customer base.”

AHBP is a 111-acre business and industrial park located at the intersection of Ray Gibbon Drive and Leclair Way in St. Albert, with lands available for future commercial and industrial development.

Update on Edmonton Global’s activities during the Covid-19 pandemic

The situation across Canada, Alberta, and our region is changing rapidly. As of March 16, we have requested that staff work from home. All travel by our team has also been halted and international travel has not occurred within the past 14 days.

Unless absolutely necessary, all meetings will now be hosted virtually rather than in person. Should a meeting be required to proceed in-person, we have instituted a hand washing protocol before and after meetings, will be taking extra precautions to wipe down surfaces on a regular basis, and will be requiring social distancing. We will continue to keep careful watch on this and follow the advice of the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta, knowing that this is a fluid situation. 

Edmonton Global has the systems and processes in place to ensure we continue to function as a high-performing team regardless of where we are individually based. As we move forward, we will be sending out updates about future meetings with partners so that collectively we continue to drive the kinds of results we are all striving for.

We will also be sharing updates as they relate to our business continuity.

Please follow us on social media and we will endeavor to provide timely and meaningful, business-focused updates.

Our team is committed to doing our part to help limit the spread and flatten the curve of Covid-19. While we are changing the way we are delivering, we remain incredibly focused on delivering results and working on behalf of our community to drive growth and investment.

We are all in this together. Thank you.

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