The facility is located in a 21,000-square-foot building within the Souris Food Park and specializes in research and development and commercialization activities involving cold- and warm-water aquatic species as well as independent contract research services related to fish health, nutrition and genomics.
The Souris facility, the product of an extensive $6 million renovation, features research suites, molecular laboratories and wet lab space dedicated to fish health and nutrition trials.
“This October, we also achieved a milestone certification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for our biosafety level-three containment lab,” says Dr. Debbie Plouffe, CATC vice president of research who oversees the facility.
“It’s significantly expanding our global markets by making CATC the only privately held contract-research organization with certified BSL3 containment in the world. We’re able to work with both domestic and imported pathogens and non-native species such as warm-water shrimp and tilapia.”
Established in 2012 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Center for Aquaculture Technologies in San Diego, Califz, CATC is based exclusively in P.E.I. Its initial staff of six employees has grown to 21, with 17 technical scientists, research associates and technicians, including six PhD.’s with more than 50 combined years of aquaculture research experience.
More than 50 percent of staff are Islanders with the rest from Canada and abroad. There are plans to hire another 10 employees in 2017.
Since 2012, CATC has invested $2.5 million in facilities and more than $200,000 in research and development while growing annual revenue by some $570,000.
“We began by providing laboratory services and expertise in aquaculture biotechnology to a small number of innovative companies,” says Plouffe. “In order to grow and participate in the global marketplace, we knew we needed to expand our facilities and our team.”
With many employees living and working in the Souris area, CATC is building its local presence with staff judging science fairs and assisting with the Souris Regional School Science Mentorship Co-op Program.
Three CATC scientists are also adjunct UPEI faculty; the company participates in UPEI and Holland College cooperative education and on-the-job training and Plouffe serves on the P.E.I. BioAlliance board of directors, helping create opportunities for the Island’s rapidly expanding bioscience cluster.
“We’re young, enthusiastic, and believe in the potential of our industry,” says Plouffe. “That’s the essence of our brand. We want to translate that optimism to the community and the Island that welcomed us - and create a one-stop shop for world-class aquatic research here in Souris.”
Margaret Magner, Ph.D., is a freelance journalist in Charlottetown (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on P.E.I.’s bioscience sector.