The Pulse: Aug. 4, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 20°C: A mix of sun and cloud with 60% chance of showers and risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 20. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • 702: There were 702 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta on Aug. 1, including 28 in intensive care. Another eight deaths were reported, bringing the total to 4,673. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Stingers will play the Saskatchewan Rattlers in a single elimination playoff game. (details)

A smiling Jalene Anderson-Baron holds an award in front of a backdrop featuring the Alberta Chambers of Commerce logo

Future Fields sees growth potential beyond cellular agriculture

By Karen Unland

Future Fields was founded to grow meat in the lab. It pivoted to generating the growth factor that cellular agriculture depends on. And now its leaders see a whole new opportunity in developing recombinant protein for therapeutics, vaccines, and other such applications.

The company isn't abandoning cellular agriculture. "We truly believe that industry has so much potential in terms of sustainability," co-founder and COO Jalene Anderson-Baron told Episode 25 of Bloom. "But we also realized that our platform has incredible potential to do a lot more things."

The EntoEngine platform is built on the common fruit fly — Drosophila melanogaster — something the company hadn't talked about much until May 2022. Now, this technology is at the heart of the startup's pitch as it seeks "to create the largest and most sustainable biomanufacturing platform on the planet."

Jumping right into pharmaceuticals is probably a little premature, Anderson-Baron said, as there are lots of hurdles to clear to live up to GMP standards. But there is low-hanging fruit to capture, she said.

"We're focusing on industries that we know we can get a good foothold in now and then planning to capture those more complex ones down the road," she said, noting the different sales process involved in shifting markets. "We know the science works. We're constantly developing new products. So now our next exciting challenge is just figuring out how to make that scale to a brand-new level that we've never done before."

The company had hoped to close a Series A round of fundraising in April. Anderson-Baron didn't want to disclose where that raise is at right now, though she hoped to have news "in the next little while." She did suggest the market is nowhere near as frothy as when Future Fields graduated from Y Combinator in 2020. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Investors are doing their due diligence, they want to know there's something there, and you need to show them that their investment is going to be worth it," she said. "Cellular agriculture has had a lot of hype. And now it's time to see what everyone's been working on."

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • The federal and provincial governments have endorsed designating a 718-kilometre section of the North Saskatchewan River, from Banff National Park to the Saskatchewan border, as a Canadian Heritage River. City council unanimously endorsed the designation in April 2021. Full designation requires a management plan that describes how the river will be managed, which the Village of Vilna has secured a grant to advance. There are currently 41 Canadian Heritage Rivers, totalling just over 11,000 kilometres, across the country.
  • Organizers of the Edmonton Heritage Festival said the event was a success, although attendance numbers have not been finalized. "If you look around, people are showing up – thank goodness – and it's great just to be able to do it again full-out and not say no to any pavilions," said executive director Jim Gibbon on the final day of the festival.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank collected only 15% of its goal at the Heritage Festival, usually one of its biggest drives of the year. The food bank has seen a 97% increase in demand for its food hamper program since June 2020. "We were hoping to get a little more because the number of people needing our services has grown so much," said executive director Marjorie Bencz. Edmonton's Food Bank accepts both monetary donations and food donations, which can be dropped off at any major grocery store or fire station.
  • Coyote complaints are up 11.5% from last year with 945 officially reported so far in 2022. A communications advisor for the city said 82 were "aggressive coyote" complaints and the highest numbers have been in the Duggan, Steinhauer, and Rutherford neighbourhoods. Some Edmontonians are keeping their pets off river valley trails, where coyotes are closer to their dens and more likely to be aggressive, according to University of Alberta biology professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair. The city recommends Edmontonians practice "averse conditioning" to make coyotes feel unwelcome in urban spaces. Aggressive encounters can be reported online or by calling 311.
  • Alberta Health Services has sent a memo to doctors working in Edmonton zone hospitals telling them to purposefully take one hallway patient in each unit to reduce pressure on emergency rooms. "That's how bad our current state is right now, that we have to implement these policies and processes so that we can care for the next sick people that are out in the waiting room," said Dr. Paul Parks, president of the emergency medicine section of the Alberta Medical Association.
  • TELUS World of Science and Fort Edmonton Park are partnering to give guests of one attraction free admission to the other attraction. Buying a ticket online or in-person will earn you a voucher for the other attraction, which must be redeemed before the program ends Sept. 5.
  • As part of its eighth NBA Canada Series, the Toronto Raptors will play a pre-season game in Edmonton against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 2 at Rogers Place.
  • According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), annual hospitalizations for cycling injuries across Canada rose by 25% — reaching more than 1,000 — from 2020-2021. Giri Srinivasan, a clinician at InStep Physical Therapy, suspects that people wanting to get outside, and more beginner cyclists becoming adventurous, is behind the trend at his clinic, while physiotherapist Steven Cindric with Reach Sports Physiotherapy and Hand Clinic suggests an important factor is drivers not observing cyclists.
Three large paintings by Yvonne DuBourdieu on a gallery wall

Artist-run Harcourt House fights for its life

By Brett McKay

In what it calls a "do-or-die situation," Harcourt House Artist Run Centre is trying to raise $3.5 million to purchase the building it has occupied for 35 years after receiving a notice that its lease would not be renewed beyond November.

Harcourt House is home to 42 artists who work and create in its studios alongside galleries and education space at 10215 112 St. The artist community that has grown up around the building may not survive if forced to relocate, fears Edmund Haakonson, president of the board of the Where Edmonton Community Artists Network (WECAN) Society, which operates Harcourt House.

"It would have a devastating effect on the community and certainly the function of the organization," Haakonson told Taproot.

Harcourt House opened to the public in 1988 and has been the workspace of celebrated artists like Barbara Paterson, Robert Sinclair, and 2022 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artists Award recipients Kiona Callihoo Ligtvoet and Ally McIntyre. It is currently showing Yvonne DuBourdieu's Divergence of Light and Group 9: Affirming and Transforming.

The gallery and education aspects of Harcourt House may be able to be transplanted, Haakonson said, but the artist studio space couldn't be replaced, as the rent elsewhere would be higher than most artists could afford. That loss would be felt well beyond Edmonton, he said.

"Harcourt House is an incredibly unique space within Canada. Not just Edmonton, not just Alberta, but within Canada. It is certainly the largest collective of studios west of Toronto. It's something that is valuable not only to this city or the province, but it's valuable to the country."

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for individuals who want to donate, and Haakonson said there are ongoing talks with all levels of government to secure the rest of the funding needed to make Harcourt House permanent and stable.

"We haven't yet reached the firm agreement," he said. "Largely that's because what would normally be around a two-year process, we're trying to mash into about three-and-a-half months out of necessity. We just don't have that luxury, so there's still so many open questions for us."

Photo: Yvonne DuBourdieu's show, Divergence of Light, is on display at Harcourt House as the society that runs the centre scrambles to find funding to buy the building. (Harcourt House/Twitter)