ST. JOHN’S, N.L. -- With a passion for improving health and safety and a vision as wide as the sea, Judith Bobbitt of St. John’s has established herself as a trailblazer in Atlantic Canada’s business community.
As president and CEO of Oceans Ltd., her research and technology company has built a reputation for providing a wide range of ocean research and analysis services in the areas of physical oceanography, marine weather forecasting and environmental effects monitoring.
The company is comprised of meteorologists, physical oceanographers, biologists, biochemists, chemists and engineers who investigate the marine environment and its applications. In its 38 years of operation, the company, with offices in St. John’s and Halifax, has amassed valuable information about the physical environment conditions at sea.
However, it’s Ocean Ltd.’s research into therapeutic bioactivity benefits of seaweed that’s catching the world’s attention.
“In understanding seaweed’s superior properties, it is critical to investigate the potential of this untapped resource as a source of novel bioactive compounds. Research is proving that seaweed has vast and varied applications which will benefit the health and well-being of society.”
— The OGM.com (Our Great Minds)
Bobbitt recently announced a potentially ground-breaking discovery in a particular type of seaweed found along the vast shoreline of Newfoundland and Labrador that has anti-cancer properties, specifically against breast cancer tumours.
The company – which screened about 80 species of seaweed before finding the promising one – is nearing the end of its research and is working on potential side-effects. She hopes to have clinical trials completed in Newfoundland
The company is also working on making a veterinarian product for drug-resistant bacteria in dogs.
Pushing for change
Bobbitt doesn’t agree with government’s decision to only allow public institutions funding for cancer research.
“For all the money that people donate for cancer research, the private sector is not allowed one nickel by Revenue Canada… I think it should change. Small- and medium-sized businesses are not supported in Canada. Right now is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
— Judith Bobbitt, CEO Oceans Ltd.
It’s been tough keeping the balance between money coming in versus money going out, what it’s spending on research versus what it’s earning on services.”
“We’ve been around for 38 years, so something is working,” she said. “But it’s not always easy.”
Bobbitt is looking to partner with a drug company to take the product to market. She’s in negotiations with a few, but said she’s encouraged by one in particular, although she wouldn’t say which one.
“I’ve learned a lot from Judith’s creativity and determination. (She’s) always looking for opportunities within challenges. I admire her tenacity, creativity and ability to adapt.”
— Annagray Campbell, business Development, Oceans Ltd.
But it’s been rewarding work
Two years ago, Bobbitt said, the company provided key route forecasting information to a ship, preventing it from sinking. She wouldn’t provide details but noted it as an example of the importance of the company’s work.
The work the company does for search and rescue is also saving lives, she said.
“And with the cancer research, we hope to save a lot more.”
As a teen, Bobbitt, alone in Montreal, put herself through school, noting she had to be an entrepreneur at a young age.
Growing up next to the sea helped shape the direction of her career.
“Already you can tell (Judith Bobbitt) is not what is perceived as the average businesswoman… Through courage and determination, she developed her own niche… Just goes to show – when the passion and determination are there, the possibilities are endless.
— Julie V. Watson, author of How Women Make Money
Advice for others
“I tell young people they should do what they enjoy, or they feel is worthwhile. Don’t do it just for money. It’s got to have deeper meaning.
“In whatever you do, be persistent in what you want. Nothing is easy, but don’t give up.”