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REF NO.: 128

SUBJECT: Newfoundland students explore biotechnology at Memorial University

DATE: April 1

Note to editors:

From antacids with mussel power to preventing deterioration of the space station, Newfoundland students have taken up the challenge to "Explore Biotech", the theme for the fifth annual Aventis Biotech Challenge. This competition, for junior and high school students, hosted by Bio-East, the Newfoundland and Labrador Biotechnology Industry Network, will take place from April 3-5, at Memorial's Field House, located on Westerland Road in St. John's.

Held each year in 12 sites across Canada, the competition is part of a national campaign to promote science education and job opportunities in the growing field of biotechnology. Student teams are given the opportunity to work with a mentor who is currently working in their field of interest and to compete for a total of $5,750 in different prizes.

Lewisporte student Justin Ropson is exploring the possibility of using waste mussel shells as another source of calcium for antacids. Preliminary results show that the calcium from mussel shells was more effective for neutralizing acid than the off-the-shelf antacids.

The problems to human health and equipment posed by fungi and other micro-organisms on long-term space flight was the inspiration for Marystown student Jennifer Graham to conduct an experiment to simulate decreased gravity by constructing a rotating platform on which fungus would be grown. Jennifer cultivated the fungus, a black bread mould common in most households, and then took measurements to determine whether reduced gravity would cause a difference in the growth rate.

The use of flavonoids to clean soil of oil pollution, preserve food and detect allergens in food are just some of the other topics students will be exploring in the 2003 Aventis Biotech Challenge.

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