Canadian Consulate Helps San Diego’s Technology Companies Look Across the (Northern) Border—and Vice Versa

9/11/09Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego is a major border city, tourism destination, and convention hotspot, so it should come as no surprise that the U.S. State Department recognizes 25 consular representatives of foreign governments in this area. But with a handful of exceptions, nearly all of them are honorary positions with no regular office hours.

Among the exceptions is the Canadian consulate, which operates with an unusually narrow focus on San Diego’s science and technology innovation scene, according to Sean Barr, who is Canada’s current consul here. Barr says that makes the consulate’s five-person staff in San Diego unusual even compared with Canada’s embassy in Washington D.C., and its consulates general, which provide full diplomatic and consular services in major U.S. cities, including Boston and Seattle.

Barr says the Canadian government made a commitment five years ago when it established the San Diego consulate, which does not provide diplomatic or full consular services. “We are the only full-time consulate presence in San Diego focused on science and technology,” Barr says. “So the Canadian government has sort of recognized that the opportunities here are significant enough to warrant a full-time presence that’s focused on the life sciences and biotechnology, cleantech, ITC (Information Technology and Communications), and defense and homeland security.”

Such opportunities have resulted in a number of cross-border collaborations between San Diego companies and Canadian firms, and Barr listed a number of examples:

—Gen-Probe, a San Diego medical diagnostics company, has been collaborating with Quebec-based DiagnoCure to develop a better method to screen for prostate cancer.

—San Diego’s Isis Pharmaceuticals, which has been developing drugs based on its RNA anti-sense technologies, has been working with OncoGenex Technologies of Vancouver, BC, on an experimental drug for prostate cancer. OncoGenex specializes in developing compounds that inhibit the production of proteins that promote resistance to drug treatments.

—San Diego-based Illumina is working with researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, Genome Quebec, and Genome Canada to create a special map of human genes. The map will serve as an important resource for researchers trying to identify genes that affect health and disease, and genetic responses to drugs and environmental factors.

—-Cubic Security Systems, a unit of San Diego-based Cubic Corp., intends to integrate radiological detection technology developed by Mobile Detect Inc. (MDI) of Ottawa, ON, under a purchasing, support and licensing agreement. Barr says MDI’s technology, which is capable of distinguishing between illicit radioactive agents and nuclear medicines, is intended for use in scanning systems Cubic has been developing for the transportation industry.

—ISE Corporation, a San Diego-based maker of hybrid electric drive systems and components for buses, trucks, and other heavy-duty vehicles, is working with New Flyer Industries, a bus manufacturer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Ballard Power Systems of suburban Vancouver BC to deliver 20 fuel-efficient buses for use during the Winter Olympic Games that begin Feb. 12 in Vancouver.

Barr says the consulate cannot claim credit for all these collaborations, but he says, “It is our role to make those matches and to facilitate those relationships.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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