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  • Writer's pictureLenora Thomas

35 Years of Innovation: 2001 ASTech Winners

Updated: Jun 12

The year 2001 marked the debut of several groundbreaking tools and platforms that continue to be integral to our daily lives. Wikipedia and Mailchimp were both launched, revolutionizing access to information and email marketing, respectively. The Xbox entered the gaming world, and Apple introduced iTunes and the iPod, transforming the music industry. Additionally, the first version of CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) was tested, paving the way for the ubiquitous, albeit sometimes frustrating, online security measure that has us identifying vehicles, sidewalks, and bicycles to prove we are not bots.

In Alberta, the tech scene saw significant growth with the establishment of over 20 new technology companies. In Edmonton, Impirica (formerly Driveable) emerged from a University of Alberta lab, utilizing research and data to develop a risk assessment tool aimed at identifying drivers at risk—be it from a commercial driver standpoint or cognitive risk assessment. Meanwhile, in Calgary, Strata Health was founded, creating automated workflows for patient referrals and ensuring the smooth transition of care between doctors.

For the ASTech Awards, winners covered the gamut from cancer research to agricultural science to kicking off the gaming industry in Alberta. Here are some of 2001's winners:

  • Winner of the Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology, BioWare Corp., founded in 1995 in Edmonton by newly graduated doctors Dr. Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka, swiftly transformed from a creative venture into a world-renowned developer of computer games. BioWare set itself apart with innovative sound, graphics, and gameplay, earning critical acclaim for titles such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, and significantly enhancing Alberta's high-tech reputation. At the time, Bioware was considered one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada. In 2007, BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts but they continue to maintain a strong presence in Alberta. The company's influence has been profound, fostering a robust game development community in the region. Many former BioWare employees have established successful companies like Inflexion Games and Beamdog. BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka has also become an active tech investor and a key contributor to Alberta's tech sector, supporting initiatives such as the ThresholdImpact University of Alberta Venture Mentoring Service.

  • Honored for his groundbreaking contributions to agricultural sciences, Dr. James Helm significantly advanced cereal variety development and the application of Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) in agriculture. His pioneering work in grain quality analysis made the process faster, non-destructive, and environmentally friendly. Traditionally, quality analysis was often time-consuming and expensive, limiting the number of samples for evaluation. Dr. Helm's research and development of NIRS technology changed all that. NIRS technology measures grain feed and malting qualities, providing rapid, non-destructive analysis of whole grain samples using a relatively small sample size. It cost-effectively predicts feed quality without the use of chemicals, making it environmentally friendly. His efforts spearheaded key research initiatives and fostered global collaborations, resulting in the establishment of the J.H. Helm Cereal Research Centre and his induction into the Alberta Agricultural Hall of Fame.

  • Dr. Theresa Allen was honored with the Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology award for her groundbreaking contributions to pharmaceutical biotechnology, particularly in cancer treatment. Dr. Allen is a Professor Emerita of Pharmacology and Oncology at the University of Alberta and a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, she is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Controlled Release Society. With over 35 years in drug delivery, Dr. Allen has significantly advanced long-circulating liposomes and ligand-targeted nanomedicines. Her research led to the development of Doxil, the first approved anticancer nanomedicine. She also pioneered Stealth liposome technology, enhancing drug delivery to tumors and minimizing side effects. Dr. Allen has over 225 peer-reviewed publications, 17 patents, and has delivered more than 265 invited lectures globally.

These achievements highlight the innovative spirit and entrepreneurial success that defined 2001 in Alberta's technology sector. Overall in 2001, there were 15 ASTech Award Winners, which you can dig into deeper on the ASTech Website.

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